Israel deploys medical team to Samoa

Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Itzhak Gerberg, has announced that an emergency medical team is being sent to join the international effort that is assisting local health workers tackle the measles epidemic in Samoa.

In a tweet on the social media site, he said: "Israel is sending an emergency medical team in coordination with the WHO to Samoa in response to the outbreak. Israel is committed to supporting our dear friend in this crisis."

The diplomat made the announcement on Twitter on December 6.

Currently, there are medical teams from Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., United Kingdom, Japan and France (French Polynesia) who are already on the ground in Samoa. 

The deployment of the teams was in response to an international appeal for assistance put out last month by the World Health Organisation (WHO), while Australia and New Zealand were directly approached by the Samoa government.

The international medical teams have been working with Samoa's Ministry of Health staff and local doctors and nurses in the district hospitals as well as the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital at Motootua.

The Ministry of Health in a statement on Saturday put the total number of measles cases at 4,460 reported to the Disease Surveillance Team, since the outbreak started. 

The total number of measles cases admitted to all hospitals recorded for the outbreak to date is 1,407 and out of that 1,177 (84 per cent) patients have been discharged. The recovery rate has increased by 2 per cent since the last update. A total of 65 measles-related deaths have been recorded since the last update on Saturday.

According to a statement published by Israel media on Saturday, a team of medical experts from Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer is preparing for an emergency deployment to Samoa.  The team of medical experts from Sheba Medical Center’s dedicated humanitarian unit, the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response, have mobilized to quickly provide much-needed relief. The team, which is now on its way Samoa, plan to stay for approximately two weeks and will comprise six nurses and two pediatric specialists.

The Sheba medical team to Samoa will be led by Dr. Itai Pessach, the head of Sheba’s Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital and Assaf Luttinger, RN, who is the Deputy Director of the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response.

“In this particular mission, we will not need to deploy our field hospital or need to bring measles inoculations to Samoa. Because the Samoan healthcare system has been simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases, we have been asked to bring hands and heads to the affected areas,” said Director of the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response, Prof. Bar-On. 

“Once our team lands in the capital city of Apia on Monday, our team will be deployed to those locations where we can be of the most assistance and help save lives.”

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