Ministry defends three week wait on measles tests

The Ministry of Health is defending the claim that blood tests for measles take three weeks to be returned to Samoa, despite suggestions it should take just days.

During a press conference earlier this month, the Ministry’s Director General Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said the 38 samples sent to Melbourne for measles tests will take three weeks to be returned.

Some of the first lot of samples, sent to Australia on the 28th of September were returned just shy of three weeks, and the specimens sent on the 2nd of October have come back in just ten days. 

Pathology laboratories in Australia confirmed that typically, measles tests take between a day to three days to be returned to a patient, and vaccinologist Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris said three weeks is far too long to wait.

“That seems to me a very long time indeed,” she said. “Technology is much better than that.

“The test itself does not take long in the lab, the time will be in transport and queueing at the lab,” she said.

“In New Zealand, if a patient presented in general practice with suspected measles, a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test which detects the presence of virus would be turned around in about four days.”

And in some cases in New Zealand, those results are coming back within 48 hours.

Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, M.O.H. Assistant Chief Executive said three weeks, and sometimes earlier, is standard for turning around tests.

“These tests can only be done at level 3 laboratories and there are only two countries (Australia and New Zealand) with reference laboratory in the region,” he said.

“As stated so many times N.Z reference laboratory cannot take specimens as they are already overwhelmed with their outbreak.”

The Ministry is still awaiting results of more tests, including that of the one-year-old baby that died on Sunday after being admitted to the paediatric isolation unit of patients who were highly suspected of having measles.

On Wednesday, M.O.H declared Samoa is facing a measles epidemic, with seven confirmed cases which have been treated and discharged

The confirmations came from the tests sent to Melbourne.

Last Sunday, 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, and the Ministry is still waiting on the results of his test.

Vaccination against measles is available at all health facilities including T.T.M. Hospital Motootua and M.T.II Hospital Tuasivi. 

According to the M.O.H. statement, the main Immunization Clinic at T.T.M. Hospital Motootua opens Mondays to Fridays from 8.00am – 8.00pm daily and Saturdays from 8.00 am – 1.00pm. 

The Immunization Clinic for M.T.II Hospital Tuasivi, also opens Mondays to Fridays from 8.00am – 8.00pm and Saturdays from 8.00 am – 1.00pm.

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