Samoa Extends State of Emergency - Measles Epidemic Records 72nd Fatality

Measles outbreaks expanding in Samoa, Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the Oceania region

polynesian island with an outrigger

According to the Independent State of Samoa Ministry of Health press secretariat’s Tweet, the State of Emergency has been extended until December 29, 2019, due to the expanding measles epidemic.

Samoa’s measles epidemic has now reached 5,154 cases. Since the epidemic began, there have been 72 measles-related fatalities recorded.

Samoa initially declared a state of emergency on November 15th.

Signed by His Highness the Head of State, Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II on December 14, 2019, pursuant to the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa, the Extension Orders are as follows:

  • PUBLIC GATHERINGS – all public gatherings cannot henceforth include the presence of children up to the age of 14.
  • INTER-ISLAND TRAVEL - All Children up to the age of 14 years, must show proof of immunization in order to board an inter-island ferry in Samoa.
  • EXAMINATIONS – Year 13 Examinations and the National University of Samoa’s Examinations shall resume as per notices of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture and the National University of Samoa, from December 16, 2019.
  • ORDERS - All Other Orders currently in effect pursuant to the original Declaration, shall unless amended by Order, remain in effect until the expiry date.

The good news is Samoa’s is now reporting about 93 percent of the residents of Upolu and Savaii islands have now been vaccinated during the mass immunization campaign that launched on November 20th.

Furthermore, Samoa continues to receive support from its neighboring countries, such as New Zealand.

On December 13th, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced further support for Samoa’s longer-term needs as it continues to respond to a devastating measles epidemic.

 “New Zealand medical specialists will travel to Samoa to work alongside Samoan colleagues and international partners, providing support where needed,” Mr. Peters said in a news release.

In addition to the Republic of Samoa, several countries located in the western Pacific Ocean have been confirmed measles outbreaks, such as:

Samoa has a population of 190,000 residents on 2 islands, Savai'i and Upolu. Samoa is located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, in the Pacific Ocean.

Moreover, American Samoa is a separate, unincorporated territory of the United States, located southeast of Samoa.

Previously, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) included Samoa in its June 2019 Travel Alert regarding the ongoing spreading of the measles virus around the world. 

Measles is a very contagious virus that spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.

An infected person can spread measles to others even before knowing he/she has the disease—from 4 days before developing the measles rash through 4 days afterward.

> Check Measles Immunity at UltaLabs <

A new study reported that most pediatric international travelers were not immunized against the measles virus prior to departure.

This Massachusetts General Hospital study published on December 9, 2019, found that despite recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, 88.5 percent of eligible school-aged travelers were not vaccinated for measles at the pre-departure consultation

This study is important since children represent less than 10 percent of international travelers departing the USA, but account for about 47 percent of known measles importation cases.

The CDC suggests the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR II) vaccine for all visitors to Samoa and any country reporting measles outbreaks. 

The MMR-II vaccine is a live virus vaccine, containing weakened forms of these viruses.

Additionally, the CDC updated its travel vaccination suggestions when visiting Samoa on August 2, 2019, to include the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella, and the annual influenza vaccinations. The CDC also suggests Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, and Typhoid vaccinations for certain Samoa visitors.

International travelers can enroll in a free travel vaccine newsletter at Vax-Before-Travel. 

Measles outbreak news is published by Vax-Before-Travel.