Measles makes Samoa home, kills 50 in fortnight


World Health Organization (WHO) medical officer for the western Pacific, Jose Hagan, said it was a grim reminder of the danger posed by "probably the most infectious disease that we know of".

There have been another two deaths in Samoa's measles epidemic, bringing the toll to 55.

A two day Government shutdown has been ordered by Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi with all public and Government services in the country to close between 5 - 6 December so that civil servants can assist in a mass vaccination campaign.

"All our schools are closed, national exams have been postponed", said Reverend Vavatau Taufao, general secretary of the Congregation Christian Church in Samoa.

Of those 53, 48 were children younger than 4, according to a government news release, which said there had been 3,728 cases recorded as of Monday.

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The festering anti-vaccination movement in the United States is giving doctors and health officials a headache, but things are even worse on the island nation of Samoa. It can be deadly, particularly in those with weak or compromised immune systems.

Samoa has seen an outpouring of support from other countries and is in the process of receiving hundreds of thousands of doses of the measles vaccine from its neighbors.

In total, about 58,000 people have been vaccinated since the mass vaccination campaign rolled out on 20 November, ABC News reported. The vaccine in that case was improperly mixed with an expired medication instead of with water.

Infection rates and deaths are still, however, climbing quickly with five fatalities in the past 24 hours, according to government data, prompting emergency restrictions on public gatherings and travel leading up to Christmas.

A New Zealand journalist, Michael Field, who has an written a book on Samoa, called the paper "nasty and cruel".