Measles' untold toll
The official death toll for the measles epidemic that ravaged Samoa stands at 83. But that figure does not include many families whose losses during the epidemic are likely to never be officially recognised.
Health authorities, charitable organisations and families say that several deaths from measles are yet to be accounted for.
During a national outreach programme in December the Samoa Victim Support Group identified at least five families whose relatives had passed away because of the disease but because they were buried at home their deaths were never recorded at a hospital.
Another mother who lost her 37-year-old husband, USA Ierome to measles said that her daughter, Oliana Ierome Uia, had died at home from the disease.
Natasha Ierome Uia told the Samoa Observer that her daughter is not included in the national death toll because she, too, died without making it to the hospital.
“My five-year-old daughter was taken to the hospital because she also had symptoms of measles such as her body was covered in a rash," she said.
“Doctors prescribed our family members with medicine and were released from the hospital yet it was during this time my husband and baby was admitted to the hospital.
Her husband contracted the measles virus from the hospital while looking after their five months old child who was admitted for a different sickness, not measles.
"We were preparing to bury my husband when my five-year-old daughter passed away one week later on a Monday.
"We then laid both of them to rest on the same day."
The Deputy Director of Public Health, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen said that despite reports from among the community no families have come forward to record instances of children dying at home from the virus.
He said that it is because there is no form of verification that these deaths were caused by measles.
“There are two forms of verification: a verbal autopsy assessment or physical autopsy,” he said.
Last Sunday the Samoa Observer reported on the case of a family from Solosolo, who claim their two-year-old child died of measles at home earlier this month.
The family said their child's death should increase the official death toll to 84.
But the Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, said she was not aware of any new deaths.