Health Officials Urge Travelers to Stay Away from Samoa as Measles Death Toll Rises to 70

200,000 South Pacific islanders faced an unprecedented two-day national quarantine. The government of Samoa struggles to arrest a catastrophic measles epidemic that has now claimed many lives. Since 6:00 am on Dec 4, 2019, all public and private services, offices, and businesses, were closed. During two twelve-hour, daytime curfews, while road travel was prohibited to all except emergency, medical-related, or essential utility traffic. The draconian restrictions came as the administration of prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi faces mounting public anger for its failure to prevent what critics say was an accident waiting to happen.

Health officials urged travelers to stay away from Samoa and American Samoa while continuing to battle a measles outbreak. At least 70 people have died from the infectious virus in Samoa. Nine cases have been reported in American Samoa so far. The immunization rate in American Samoa is much higher, but the government is still being extra cautious. Officials say all incoming travelers must show proof of receiving a measles vaccination at least 14 days before their arrival date. Without this, they might be denied entry. Measles is an airborne disease that spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of infected people. It may also be spread through direct contact with any mouth or nasal secretions. It is extremely contagious; nine out of ten people who are not immune and share living space with an infected person will be infected.