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Samoa measles outbreak death toll rises to 55

The death toll from Samoa’s measles epidemic has risen to 55, with two people dying from the illness in the past 24 hours.

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The government will shut down on December 5 and 6 as it grapples with the epidemic. Source: 1 NEWS

More than 150 new cases have been recorded over the same period, according to the Samoan government’s latest update.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has delivered a stern warning to anti-vaxxers as his country grapples with the outbreak.

“Vaccination is the only cure,” he said in a press conference.

“Let us work together to encourage and convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic. Let us not be distracted by the promise of alternative cures.”

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Most branches of government will close on December 5 and 6. Source: Breakfast

The government’s set to shut down on Thursday for two days, so that workers can help with the mass vaccination campaign that’s seen more than a quarter of the population receive the MMR vaccine.

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Samoa’s Government to temporarily shut down amid deadly measles epidemic

Healthcare experts say low immunisation rates are to blame for the outbreak.

Dr John Cameron told TVNZ1's Breakfast Samoa had “virtually no immunity”.

“Everybody was susceptible, the virus came in, everyone could catch the virus, and you saw all of the damage happening in one bout,” Dr Cameron said.

But convincing Samoans to get the jab in the first place is more complicated, as Samoa Observer reporter Sapeer Mayron told Breakfast.

“They're desperate and they're seeking treatment elsewhere and Samoa has a rich history of traditional medicine so that has been something to contend with as well.”

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Helen Petousis-Harris joined TVNZ1’s Breakfast to discuss the epidemic in Samoa, where 39 people have died – mostly children. Source: Breakfast

Another issue has been the spread of misinformation on social media, with Samoan police having issued strong warnings to two men who allegedly promoted alternative measles treatments online.

Advising against vaccination violates the country’s state of emergency and mandatory vaccination order.