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Measles toll hits 72, new cases drop

Another death in the past day has brought the national death toll from the measles epidemic sweeping Samoa to 72, according to an update released by the National Emergency Operations Centre on Thursday. 

A total of 75 new patients were infected with the virus over the same period (infection rates reached a week-long low on Monday and have been dropping steadily; yesterday 83 new cases were reported).

The new reports bring the total number of cases reported to 4,995. 

The total of people in hospital receiving treatment for measles is 176, including 17 critically ill children and three pregnant women in Intensive Care Units.

While epidemiologists and experts such as the head of the Oceania University of Medicine, Toleafoa  Dr. Viali Lameko, have welcomed the declining rates of infection they have warned against "relaxing".

Those inoculated under the mass vaccination campaign, which the Government on Thursday said had now reached 93 per cent of the population, take two weeks until they develop immunity to the disease.

The British Government will also next week send a team of specialists to focus on the often deadly related threatening symptoms that follows measles patients with weakened immune symptoms, such as pneumonia and encephalitis. The team will arrive on Monday and work through the Christmas period. 

Of the 176 in-patient cases, 140 are at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital, three are at Poutasi District Hospital, two are at Lalomanu District Hospital, 19 are at the Leulumoega Rural District Hospital, five are at the Malietoa Tanumafili II Hospital, four were at Foailalo District Hospital, one at Sataua District Hospital and two at Safotu District Hospital.

A total of 1,579 have been admitted to hospital since the epidemic was declared in mid-October. Of those 1,331 - or 84 per cent have been discharged. 

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