Measles epidemic: Samoa's death toll rises to 42

In this November 2019 image from video masked children wait to get vaccinated at a health clinic in Apia Samoa

In this November 2019 image from video masked children wait to get vaccinated at a health clinic in Apia Samoa

A measles epidemic in Samoa has killed 39 people, with the World Health Organization (WHO) blaming an anti-vaccine messaging campaign for leaving the Pacific island nation vulnerable to the spread of the virus.

Samoa's top health official has said the epidemic is yet to peak.

Measles is caused by a virus and can lead to serious complications including pneumonia and inflammation of the brain that can cause permanent damage and be deadly, especially in small children.

Director of nursing Jocelyn Peach said the nurses' response to the measles outbreak in Auckland and in Samoa had played a huge part in combating the disease.

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Waitematā DHB has sent a team of nurses to Samoa to support the vaccination mission to combat the measles epidemic.

"We are still not satisfied with the coverage of the six months to the four years".

This resulted in the temporary suspension of the country's immunization program and dented parents' trust in the vaccine, even though it later turned out the deaths were caused when other medicines were incorrectly administered.

Misinformation about the safety of vaccines, she said, "has had a very remarkable impact on the immunization program" in Samoa.

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Nearly 3000 cases have now been reported, including 250 in the last day, the Samoan government confirms.

The outbreak has prompted worldwide support, including a team of New Zealand medical staff who flew over to help local doctors.

The UN children's agency UNICEF has sent than 110,000 doses of measles vaccine and medical teams from Australia and New Zealand are helping administer them.

On Friday, there had been 2936 measles cases reported since the outbreak began, with 250 cases recorded in the past 24 hours.

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