Supporting the Samoa measles crisis

27 November 2019

Dr Teuila Percival with NZ medical assistance team.

The death toll in Samoa’s deadly measles outbreak is still rising with more than 30 deaths to date and SouthSeas Healthcare Chairperson Dr Teuila Percival joined the New Zealand medical assistance team to try help combat the contagious disease which is causing grief in Samoa.

The support mission from New Zealand and other countries around the world poured in when the Samoan government declared a state of emergency, ordering schools to close down in the middle of exams.

Dr Percival, among others is helping to support local hospitals in the outer villages. The medical assistance team will support Samoa health personnel providing treatment and medical supplies.

“I’m based at Leulumoega Hospital with the NZ Medical assistance team. I am the only pediatrician, along with one rural specialist doctor, three ED nurses, and one midwife. We work with two local doctors and nurses."

"Our site is a 24/7 Measles only hospital and Ed/OPD but if non-measles related patients turn up, we see them in a tent in the car park rather than turn them away,” says Dr Percival.

“We have been really busy with lots of sick children but it is a joy to work with such dedicated hard working Samoan and Kiwi nurses and doctors. I feel so blessed to be able to help our Samoan kids and families.”

“We are doing our very best to help, especially the children in critical condition, and the support from NZ and other overseas countries had been tremendous.”

The mass vaccination drive remains the priority in all district hospital sites, providing MMR vaccinations, especially for the age group six-months to 19-years-old.

National University of Samoa Vice Chancellor and one of the founders of SouthSeas Healthcare Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma encourages the mass vaccination campaign, urging many Samoans that vaccination is the right call at this time in this measles epidemic.

“The only prevention against measles is vaccination. It is a highly contagious disease and vaccinating everyone is the right thing to do to prevent more deaths. Although the vaccine takes two weeks to take full effect, the whole population will be protected if everyone is vaccinated.”

To date, Samoa health ministry has confirmed at least 32 measles related deaths, mostly infants.

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