By Staff Writer
“It looks like it is coming own but mortality either remains or will continue to rise depending on the status of admissions in hospitals and new ones to develop.”
The is was the cautious reaction from the Director General of Health Leausa Dr. Take Naseri to Newsline Samoa last night at the last 24 hour update report showing zero death added to the measles death toll.
The fatality count in 8 of the recent series of 24 hour updated reports fluctuated mainly between 2 to 3 deaths until this latest Update 24.
The death toll still remains at 70 mostly children since the 24 hour Update Report 22
The number of new recorded cases dropped for the first time since the close monitoring started, to below 100 with just 87 reported.
The Ministry of Health confirms a total of 4,819 measles cases to date.
The reservations by the Director General of Health is reflected also in a medai comment in New Zealand by the head of the New Zealand rotation Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT) Dr. Alan Wright working in Samoa.
"It takes about two weeks for the vaccination to provide protection, so we have to wait another week or two before [the results of the vaccination drive] really kick in," NZ media quoted Dr. Wright.
Wright and his team have been in Samoa for the past 10 days, having taken over from a previous NZMAT rotation team there for the first two weeks of the response.
Wright is based at Leulumoega District Hospital, about 30km from Apia, which has been set up as a dedicated measles treatment site. Patients with measles or measles-related symptoms are encouraged to visit the hospital, while non-measles cases attended a nearby clinic.
The eight-bed facility has about 18 patients in it.
"This is down from the 28 patients that were treated there at one point, so it is pretty cramped as you can imagine," he said.
About 30 to 40 patients are treated at the hospital daily, most with measles or measles-associated conditions. The majority are treated and sent off, while a few need to be admitted. Serious cases are transferred to the main hospital at Apia.
Wright said it was difficult to determine how close the epidemic was to a turning point, but numbers had "plateaued a little" over the past five days.
"There are going to be some children in Apia hospital who have been very sick and have been managed for a long time, who potentially will run out of reserves at some point. I don't think we are quite there yet, but hopefully we are past the worst," he said.
Limited access to well-resourced healthcare and medical facilities present another hurdle in Samoa's response to the epidemic and, according to Wright, "put the country on the backfoot since the start".
"Obviously we bring stuff with us as part of a team, so we can help boost their resources. However, we don't want to create a vacuum when we leave by bringing things that they can't get.
"So a vital part of the philosophy of our team, is that we want to support them as much as we can, but we don't want to leave them with some deficiencies once we go."
Wright was unable to estimate how long NZMAT teams would be working in Samoa as that would depend on the number of medical cases being reported and the population's response to the vaccination drive.
The emotional toll of the epidemic on the medical teams was significant, he said.
"We witnessed a child die on our first day here and that hit my team pretty hard. But then you get inundated by another 40-odd patients and you just have to get on with the job.
"We've got a good team who support each other and we try and provide pastoral care as much as we can."
There are currently 169 measles cases who are in-patients at all health facilities. Of this, 140 are at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital (TTMH), 3 at Poutasi District Hospital, 4 at Lalomanu DH, 14 at the Leulumoega Rural District Hospital, 3 at the Malietoa Tanumafili II Hospital (MTIIH) 3 at Foailalo DH, 1 Sataua DH and 1 at Safotu District Hospital. Admissions include 21 critically ill children in ICU/HDU and 2 pregnant women at TTMH.
The total number of measles cases admitted to all hospitals recorded for the outbreak to date is 1,510. Of that, 1,271 (84%) patients have been discharged. Recovery rate remains the same since the last update.
As of December 9th, 2019, approximately 91% of all eligible people in Samoa have been vaccinated against measles.
There is ongoing data entry, verification, and analyses to estimate vaccination coverage for both Upolu and Savaii by target group and region during pre-campaign and mass vaccination campaign in Samoa. An update will be provided as soon as possible.