Measles outbreak in American Samoa declared a public health emergency

There are 32 confirmed and probable cases in the United States.

American Samoa has issued a public health emergency after an outbreak of measles spread across the United States.

On Tuesday, there was one lab-confirmed case in an 8-year-old child and 31 suspected and/or probable cases of the highly contagious disease, according to the health ministry.

At a press briefing, Dr. Scott Anesi, the department’s chief epidemiologist, the suspected cases are all in children aged 2 months to 13 years.

Anyone who tests positive for measles has been ordered to self-isolate for 21 days, while those who have been or may have been exposed must quarantine for up to 21 days.

The emergency declaration, signed by Governor Lemanu PS Mauga, is for 30 days and is due to expire on Wednesday, May 24.

The outbreak has led the American Samoa Department of Education, which serves 12,000 students, to close all schools until Friday May 12.

Parents have been told they can collect their children’s virtual learning packers and any meals they are entitled to from their school dads until Friday.

It is not the first time that there has been an epidemic in the region. According to a World Health Organization report, a 2019 outbreak swept across the Pacific.

In American Samoa, 12 measles cases have been reported and no deaths have been reported. However, in the nation of Samoa, more than 5,700 cases and 83 deaths have been reported, with most occurring in children under the age of 5.

The WHO and UNICEF said the outbreak came after measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination coverage fell from 74% to 34% between 2017 and 2018 after two infants died as a result of vaccination with poorly prepared vaccines, resulting in vaccine hesitancy.

Measles is incredibly contagious, with the CDC saying each individual infected with the virus can pass it on to up to 10 close contacts, if they are unprotected, including if they don’t wear a mask or aren’t vaccinated.

Complications from measles can be relatively mild, like skin rashes, or they can be much more serious, like viral sepsis, pneumonia, or brain swelling.

The CDC says anyone who has had measles at some point in their life or who has received two doses of the MMR vaccine is protected against measles.

In the decade before the measles vaccine became available, about 3 to 4 million people were infected each year, 48,000 were hospitalized and between 400 and 500 people died, according to the federal health agency. health.

One dose of the measles vaccine is 93% effective in preventing infection if exposed to the virus. Two doses are 97% effective.

It is recommended that children receive their first dose between 12 and 15 months and their second dose between 4 and 6 years of age.

According to a CDC report released in January, in the 2021-22 school year, 88.3% of kindergarteners in Ohio had received two doses of the MMR vaccine, less than the national average of 93%. .

The American Samoa Department of Health says 89% of daycare, elementary and high school students have received both doses of MMR vaccines as of April 22.

The department shared on Facebook on Tuesday a post from several clinics, wards and churches that will offer MMR vaccines to people ages 6 months and older.

Anesi said the goal for the territory is to reach at least 95% and 100% among all school-age children.

“The main concern here is that children ages one through high school are fully immunized, as required by the DOE,” he said.

ABC News’ Eli Cahan contributed to this report.

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