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As of Friday this week, Samoa Children’s Outpatient Clinic at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole (TTM) Hospital will be closed in order to avoid sick people becoming infected with measles when seeking treatment.
This was announced by the Ministry of Health. The clinic will close from Friday and that all emergency and suspected cases of measles should go to the Acute Primary Care Clinic or Outpatient Department.
Non-measles patients should seek treatment with private doctors at their clinics if they are not in critical condition, but the Emergency Department remains open 24 hours a day.
“This change is a result of the increasing number of measles cases presenting to TTM Hospital and to prevent people coming to the hospital with non-measles complaints, becoming infected with measles,” the Ministry states.
Of the total 716 suspected and 48 confirmed cases of measles, 40 per cent (290 cases) have been admitted to hospitals. 219 of those are children under four-years-old.
Majority of cases have been admitted to TTM Hospital while just six have been admitted to Leulumoega Hospital.
Savai'i’s four hospitals have seen a total of 24 cases.
The Ministry has confirmed at least six people are measles-related mortalities, five of which are under two years old and one 37 year old.
The six deaths include previously reported on 14-month-old Peter von Heiderbrandt, an eight-month-old and a 37-year-old.
Director General of the Ministry of Health Leausa Dr Take Naseri suspects the adult succumbed to MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) sepsis, a severe infection immune to antibiotics.
Meanwhile, the measles is spreading like an out of control “wildfire” in Samoa, an Auckland-based vaccinologist says.
Samoa's government has said it suspects that seven deaths have been caused by the measles virus, since the outbreak was declared in October.
As of Monday, 628 suspected measles cases had been recorded with 48 confirmed so far.
Auckland University's Helen Petousis-Harris said the disease was at the stage where it was now difficult to stop.
She said the deaths were a tragedy.
“How it can be stopped, I don't know, it's like a wildfire that is burning now out of control, so how you can contain something like that is enormously difficult.”
Vaccinations and quarantine were pivotal, Dr Petousis-Harris said.
“Those are the only two interventions that we really have available to us, there is really nothing else that can be done to either control or stop this. You can only try and mitigate it, you probably can't try and stop it at this stage. It will ultimately burn itself out."
Dr Petousis-Harris said it would depend on the authorities getting enough vaccines out fast enough.
Samoa had had a very low uptake of measles vaccines for years, she said, and the country had some of the lowest vaccine coverages in the world.
The current situation was always on the cards, she said.
Last year, the vaccination programme was suspended temporarily after the death of two babies following their immunisation shots.
An investigation found that the vaccines had been mixed incorrectly and wrongly administered.
Two nurses are serving jail terms as a result.
Dr Petousis-Harris said while the case and suspension contributed to the low uptake it wasn't the only cause.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS
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