Measles epidemic: Samoa's death toll rises to 42

MMR vaccinations underway in American Samoa

Prior to the outbreak, Samoa had notoriously low vaccination rates, with data from the World Health Organization and UNICEF estimating that the country's national immunization coverage fell from 74% to 34% between 2017 and 2018.

The Samoa Ministry of Health confirmed 243 more cases had been recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 2437 on Tuesday.

Eighteen of those to die had not reached their first birthday - a further 20 were between one and four.

More countries have flown medical staff and supplies to Samoa to battle a measles outbreak that prompted the Pacific island to declare a state of emergency this month.

The two toddlers, Lannacallystah Samuelu and Lameko Si'u, who died shortly after receiving MMR vaccinations in August a year ago likely escalated fear among the public about getting immunised, Petousis-Harris said.

Following the July 2018 deaths, the government halted its MMR immunization program from July 2018 until April 2019 while it investigated, according to the WHO.

When it later emerged the infants have been killed by a medical blunder, the general public's belief within the jab had been dented.

Dr Kate O'Brien, director of WHO's department of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals, blamed the outbreak on an anti-vaccine campaign sparked by the loss of life of two kids final year.

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The country has dispatched teams to help district hospitals, he said, and was receiving assistance from Australia, New Zealand and French Polynesia, as well as guidance from the WHO. But overstretched medical services are struggling to contain the outbreak.

"The team has also established a portable eight-bed critical care unit to ensure the most vulnerable patients receive the care they need".

The group of 13 left for the Pacific nation from Manchester Airport and are heading to the main hospital in Samoa's capital Apia to treat infected children.

A combination of the worsening crisis and calls from New Zealanders wanting to help, has prompted UNICEF New Zealand to initiate an emergency campaign in order to fundraise and intensify the response to the measles epidemic in Samoa. Schools have been closed and children under the age of 17 have been banned from public gatherings.

The rash seems as pink and blotchy marks on the hairline that journey down over a number of days, turning brown and finally fading.

Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.

'[It] could cause encephalitis which is irritation of the mind.

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