50 children killed by measles in Samoa as outbreak gets worse

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Wellington, New Zealand: The Samoan government said Monday that five children died in the last day during a measles outbreak and that while the authorities were making efforts to vaccinate the entire population, the death toll from the epidemic rose to more than 50.

Samoa declared a national emergency last month and ordered all 200,000 people living in the island states of the South Pacific to be vaccinated. The government closed all schools and forbade children to attend public meetings.

Since the end of October, 53 people have died in the epidemic, including one adult and two older adolescents. The majority of deaths were infants, including children younger than 23 and children between 25 and 1 and 4 years old.

The government said that more than 1,100 people have been hospitalized since the outbreak, and about 180 have been hospitalized. Among these admitted patients, there were 19 seriously ill children.

Samoa authorities believe that the virus was originally transmitted by travelers from New Zealand. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said  on Monday that New Zealand is making every effort to stop the epidemic, including sending more than 50 medical professionals and thousands of vaccines to Samoa.

Other countries, including Great Britain, also sent teams and supplies.

Ardern said the natural curve of infection rates means “sometimes things can get better before they get better.”

Data from the World Health Organization and UNICEF show that fewer than 30% of Samoa babies were immunized last year.

This low rate was exacerbated by medical accidents that resulted in the death of two babies by babies injected with the wrong mixed vaccine, leading to greater delays and distrust of the vaccination plan.

The government said about 33,000 people had been vaccinated before last month and a further 58,000 have been vaccinated since then.

The World Health Organization aims to eliminate measles in most parts of the world by next year. It said that thanks to the safe vaccines used since the 1960s, the disease is completely preventable, and as a result of a better immune response, the worldwide number of measles deaths decreased by 84% between 2000 and 2016, to around 90,000 each year people.

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