Samoa measles-related deaths reach 32

The death toll in Samoa related to the measles epidemic has reached 32 - a jump from 25 recorded on Monday.

On Tuesday, the Government of Samoa released its latest update on the measles outbreak, announcing that there had been 32 "measles related deaths" to date. The majority of these (15) were children aged between a year old and four. Seven of the deaths were children aged between six months and 11 months.

There have 2437 measles cases reported to the Disease Surveillance Team since the outbreak began in October. In the past 24 hours, 243 cases have been recorded. Of the total number of confirmed measles cases, 176 are currently in-patients at health facilities.

So far, 766 patients have been admitted to hospital since the outbreak began, with 558 discharged.

Since the start of the Samoa Mass Vaccination Campaign on November 20, 24,000 individuals have been vaccinated. The population of the island nation is just under 200,000.

The Government also announced on Tuesday that a travel ban on children up to the age of 19 between Upolu and Savaii had been stopped. 

Some of hospitals are running at 200-300 percent capacity due to the crisis, Dr Scott Wilson told Newshub on Monday.

"These hospitals are not designed to deal with this. The minute you get hospitals running at 200 to 300 percent capacity - I think it speaks for itself. It's incredibly serious," he said.

"There have been a few tears. We have admitted at times multiple members of the same family. At one point we had five members of the same family in here."

It's reported the disease reached the Pacific nation after someone from Auckland visited Samoa. Between January 1 and November 22 there had been 1678 confirmed cases of measles notified in the Auckland region.

Several Kiwi nurses from Countries Manukau Health travelled to Samoa last week to help with the crisis.

Counties Manukau Health general manager for pacific health development Elizabeth Powell told Newshub at the time that many Samoans are also Kiwis, so it makes sense to help out.

"Our families live in the Pacific. My family's in the Pacific. Our south Auckland people, their families are in the Pacific. We are interconnected. We are part of a bigger family," she said.

"The New Zealand Government asked Counties to work alongside the Samoan Ministry of Health and their health teams to look at vaccinating the children under the age of five and vulnerable populations who have not been vaccinated."

But Powell said efforts in Samoa may also have a flow-on benefit for New Zealand.

"By helping Samoa and supporting Samoa around this vaccination programme for measles, we can also be preventing the travel of measles back to New Zealand again."