Measles shuts schools early

Primary and secondary schools will close two weeks early to avoid further spread of measles, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) announced on Saturday. 

After the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) revealed the deaths of two babies and an adult with highly suspect measles, the decision was made to close all preschools and day care centres until further notice. 

Now all schools will follow suit, but not before final exams have been sat.

Primary Schools have been ordered to close from the 15th of November while Secondary Schools have been given the rest of the month until the 29th November.

Samoa has seen 15 cases of measles confirmed by a laboratory test with another 314 suspected cases. M.O.H is waiting on the results of 149 samples sent to Melbourne for testing.

This number is highly likely to increase before the end of the year, with just 31 per cent of 15 month old babies having received their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine in 2018, and historically low coverage rates over the last decade.

President of the Secondary School Principals Association Lesaisaea Reupena Matafeo said he feels M.E.S.C. has been proactive in trying to control the rampant spread of measles.

“The decision by Government to close schools two weeks early, I can say that is a very considerate and very smart, sensible decision.

“Even though the term will be shortened by two weeks, for sure all the schools can actually change their timetables to suit that,” he said.

“Whatever we do, our priority is life and safety for everyone.”

Lesaisaea said his association “fully endorses” the Government’s decision.

Measles is a highly infectious, airborne disease, which is spreading dramatically across the globe due to declining vaccination rates. 

The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) said twice as many people became infected with the disease in the first six months of this year compared to the first six months of 2018.

The Samoa Observer first learned there were 16 people in an isolation unit at the National Hospital in early October. 

The Ministry of Health (M.O.H) assistant chief executive officer Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen said the best measure against the spread of measles is for people to stay away from crowded places and to stay home if they spot any symptoms.

Symptoms of measles include: fever, dry couch, runny nose, sore throat, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and a distinctive rash.

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