The Samoan government announced on Saturday, December 14, that it has extended the State of Emergency (SoE) effective immediately until 00:00 (local time) on Sunday, December 29, due to the ongoing measles epidemic. Under the SoE, children up to the age of 14 are prohibited from public gatherings and must show proof of immunization in order to board any inter-island ferry. The SoE also stipulates that no child under the age of 18 can visit any medical facility unless they require medical attention.
As of around 16:30 on Sunday, December 15, government officials have confirmed 72 measles-related deaths and 56 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of recorded cases to 5210 - the majority being children aged 4 and under - since the epidemic began in mid-October 2019. Vaccination against the disease is a mandatory legal requirement. Ministry of Health officials reported on Sunday that they have successfully vaccinated 93 percent of all eligible people people since the Mass Vaccination Campaign began on Wednesday, November 20. Further spread of the disease is expected in the immediate term.
The Samoan Ministry of Health declared a nationwide measles epidemic on October 16 followed by a state of emergency on November 15. Government officials ordered the indefinite closure of all schools, including high schools and universities, from November 17.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that typically affects mostly children. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of infected persons. Symptoms of measles are usually a high fever, which begins approximately ten to 12 days after exposure to the virus and lasts four to seven days. A runny nose, a cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks can develop in the initial stage. After several days, a rash erupts, usually on the face and upper neck. Over the course of about three days, the rash spreads, eventually reaching the hands and feet. The rash lasts for five to six days and then fades. On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of seven to 18 days). A vaccine is available.
Individuals in Samoa are advised to keep abreast of the situation, obey all instructions issued by the local authorities, ensure their measles vaccination is up to date (including booster shots), and to contact their doctor with any questions or concerns. Anyone experiencing the above symptoms is urged to seek immediate medical attention.