The death toll of the measles epidemic that has gripped Samoa has now reached 60. Majority of those that have died were children who were aged four or under. The number of cases on the island has reached 4,000 already. The Samoan island has a population of 200,000 who are deeply religious.
A lot of countries including New Zealand has teamed up with organisations to deliver vaccines and well as medical supplies to the island nation. Even the United Nations agency UNICEF has stepped in to help.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that spreads easily. Cases of measles have also been reported in other island nations like Fiji and Tonga but there have been no reports of death.
In response to the ongoing crisis, the Samoan Prime Minister has declared a state of emergency. All government services and businesses have been told to close down on Thursday and Friday so as to allow door-to-door mass vaccinations as Samoa tries a last-ditch effort to tackle the outbreak and improve immunity. According to the government announcement, everyone is to stay at home and tie a red cloth on their door if they have a family member that requires vaccination. Even before the declaration of emergency by the Prime Minister, people in Samoa had stopped turning in for work while schools were closed and even church services were cancelled.
According to World Health Organisation experts, anti-vaccination propaganda has been undoing decades of hard work into the eradication of this disease. The fatality rate for the disease in Samoa is 2% currently but it has been known to rise up to 5%.
It is believed that the epidemic started in New Zealand before spreading to Samoa. Winston Peters, the foreign minister of New Zealand has announced on November 15 that his country would send 3,000 vaccines and 12 nurses to Samoa to help with the outbreak.
(with inputs from agencies)