Article by
Dani Reiter
Updated
November 30th, 2019

Pacific Island Measles Outbreak Gains Needed Support From UNICEF

Measles outbreaks on Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga continue to expand 

fiji island and natives on the water way

Various Pacific Island countries announced they are receiving expanded support from UNICEF to combat measles outbreaks in the Oceania region.

This is important news since measles is a highly contagious virus that can lead to serious health complications, especially in children younger than 5 years of age. 

Furthermore, there is no way to tell in advance the severity of the measles symptoms your child will experience.

As of November 28, 2019, about 300,000 measles vaccines and related medical supplies have been delivered to Samoa, Fiji, and the Kingdom of Tonga reported this new UNICEF press release.

UNICEF’s support and outbreak information for these French Polynesian countries are highlighted below: 

Samoa

  • Samoa has confirmed 42 measles-related fatalities as of November 28, 2019.
  • UNICEF has delivered a total of 115,500 doses of measles vaccines to Samoa since October 1st, including the required diluent, syringes and safety boxes, as well as sufficient supplies of Vitamin A.
  • Since the launch of the measles vaccination campaign in mid-November, the Samoan Ministry of Health has successfully vaccinated more than 50,000 individuals in both Upolu and Savai’i.
  • Additionally, UNICEF has delivered 6 specially designed refrigerators and 3 emergency trolleys to the Ministry of Health, to ensure the cold chain is maintained and vaccines are effective when given at vaccination sites.

Fiji

  • Fiji declared a measles outbreak on November 7, 2019. 
  • As of  November 27th, there are now 14 confirmed cases of measles. 
  • The Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services is strongly advising against non-essential travel to Serua and Namosi. This includes, but is not limited to, the areas of Wainadoi, Nabukavesi, Namosi, Navua, and Deuba.
  • Since October 1st, UNICEF has delivered a total of 135,000 doses of measles vaccines with required diluent, syringes and safety boxes. 
  • An additional 200,000 vaccines are en route to Fiji.
  • Currently, the free measles vaccine is only available to children as per the routine national immunization schedule and the residents of Serua/Namosi.

Kingdom of Tonga

  • A measles outbreak was also declared in the Kingdom of Tonga on October 24,  2019. The outbreak of measles in Tonga began in early October 2019, following the return of a squad of Tongan rugby players from New Zealand.
  • As of November 26th, there were 394 cases of confirmed or suspected measles have been identified in Tonga. About 87 percent of these measles cases have occurred on the main island of Tongatapu, where the outbreak began.
  • The outbreak has involved mainly teenagers from schools on Tongatapu, as well as students from Vava’u High School. 
  • In all locations where suspected measles cases have been identified, doctors, health officers, and nurses are continuing to follow-up cases.
  • Since October, UNICEF has delivered a total of 12,000 measles vaccines including required diluent, syringes and safety boxes, to Tonga. 
  • Two refrigerators, for the vaccine cold chain, will also be provided along with an additional 6,000 doses of vaccines.
  • The Minister of Education closed all primary schools on 14/11/2019. A decision was made to continue the school closure until the end of 2019.

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To warn international travelers of their measles risks, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 1 Travel Alert in June 2019. This Alert suggests all travelers speak with a healthcare provider to learn which vaccinations are appropriate prior to departure.

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.

Children can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left. 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, says the CDC.

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While many under-vaccinated individuals have contracted measles during these outbreaks, certain people may need a 3rd vaccine booster to be better protected from the measles virus, says the CDC.

Earlier in 2019, these Pacific Ocean countries were confronted with a Dengue type 2 virus outbreaks, such as on the island of Tahiti. 

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF Pacific and its work for children, follow UNICEF Pacific on Twitter 

Measles news published by Vax Before Travel