Fears for infants in Samoa as measles deaths mount

Samoa's parliament

Samoa's parliament

"New Zealand will deploy up to 15 ICU specialists, as well as additional Samoan-speaking doctors and nurses, to work alongside medical staff from Samoa and other partners and provide relief", he said.

Samoa declared a state of emergency on the 16 of November after declaring the epidemic in October, and schools have been closed with young people being urged not to attend public gatherings.

Eighteen of those to die had not reached their first birthday - a further 20 were between one and four.

Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death.

Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus that spreads easily when you cough and sneeze. "And as a outcomes of that tragic event the boldness within the immunisation system fell", she talked about.

"When measles enters a country like that, there is a huge group of people who are not immune", she said.

"In the case of Samoa, I think it's particularly distressing because we have such a bad crisis happening", she said.

Fears were raised about the MMR vaccination past year when two babies died within minutes of receiving the jab.

"We've got children dying and people are actively trying to stop people becoming vaccinated, and that (vaccination) is what's going to prevent more deaths".

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Kate O'Brien, director of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) immunisation department, said the anti-vax movement has "had a very remarkable impact on the immunisation programme" in Samoa.

"Samoan health workers have been grappling with the outbreak for a number of weeks".

And 190 people with the disease remain in hospital, including 25 critically ill children and pregnant women.

He said mass vaccination was the only way to rein in epidemic.

To support this vaccination effort, 7 New Zealand Red Cross health delegates are in Samoa supporting measles treatment and prevention activities.

Norton said Britain was also preparing to send a support medical team, adding that World Health Organization has sent out an appeal to other countries in the region to send medical teams.

And, Samoa is included in the CDC's global measles Travel Alert.

Radio New Zealand reports all but four of the deaths are children under the age of four, including the six who died in the past 24 hours.

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