Boy in Isolation Unit dies

A one-year-old boy who had been for a week confined to a Moto’otua Hospital isolation unit for patients "highly suspected" of having  measles died on Sunday afternoon. 

The deceased child's mother, who asked not to be identified, told the Samoa Observer yesterday that the boy was first admitted to an isolation unit last Monday.

The Ministry of Health (M.O.H) Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, said the Ministry could not confirm the cause of the child's death, or even if the child was infected with measles until conclusive testing had been completed. 

The Samoa Observer revealed on Sunday that the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital Moto’otua had isolated sixteen patients "highly suspected" of having measles with presentations beginning last week. 

Dr. Helen Aspasia Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, said there were too many variables and possible coincidental conditions to draw conclusions about the boy's cause of death until further testing. 

But Samoan authorities have been fearing the possible arrival of the disease - often described as the most contagious of any virus - from New Zealand, which has recently been struck by a record outbreak of more than 1800 cases, mostly in Auckland.  

Deaths from measles are rare. Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris cited a general morality rate of 1 in every 1000 cases. But according to the United States' Government Centre for Disease control, in developing countries about 1 in every 100 children infected with the disease will die from it or its complications. 

Dr. Petousis-Harris said that the most recent measles outbreak in New Zealand had produced an unusually high rate of hospital admissions, or up to 40 per cent of patients, or double the average. That, she said, had prompted questions about whether this was a "particularly virulent" strain of the disease, but there was not a conclusive answer to that question she said.

People having travelled from New Zealand or related to them are suspected to to be the most serious risks for spreading the disease in Samoa.

Thee has been an unexpected surge in measles infections globally. Infections have doubled to 90,000 cases in Europe alone in the six months to June this year.

Authorities say they will be unable to conclusively speak to the suspected infection status of those in the hospital until tests are returned from Melbourne in about three weeks time.

Last week, M.O.H Director General Leauasa Dr. Take Naseri told media that 38 samples of suspected measles have been dispatched to Melbourne for testing. The Director General did not return calls on Sunday.

The Ministry of Health continues to urge families to vaccinate their children, and themselves against measles, which is one of the most infectious diseases.

In a bid to boost recently flagging levels of Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccination rates in Samoa the hospital has recently established pop-up vaccination clinics. Young children but unvaccinated adults less than 50 years of age are being encouraged to receive vaccinations. 

Measles can be transmitted through the air. Contagious particles of the virus can remain in the air for hours after an infected person leaves an area. Symptoms typically begin eight to 10 days after initial exposure to the virus, and then develop in stages, causing visible symptoms.

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