“State of Emergency”

An island paradise, an American territory, thousands of miles from “the mainland” in midst of a major measles outbreak.


What To Know

Samoa: Independent island nation in the South Pacific with population of approx. 200,000. A measles outbreak since mid-October has killed more than 70 (mostly children), infected nearly 4,900.

American Samoa: Neighboring island, a U.S. territory about the size of Washington D.C. with population of around 50,000. Officials recently declared a measles outbreak.


“You have scores of people dying, and the society is paralyzed,”

Dr. Paulus Tsai, a Hawaiian-based surgeon who traveled to Samoa as part of a group of health professionals to help administer a mass vaccination. Experienced doctors say they have never seen anything like this - with hospitals overcapacity.

What Happened

  • Low inoculation rates led to a vulnerable population.
  • Last year two nurses caused the deaths of two infants by mixing the measles vaccine incorrectly. Vaccination rates, already trending lower, dropped further over safety concerns.
  • Most victims who have died: Children under 5-years-old. Those who survive suffer from pneumonia and other complications.

What’s Next

  • As victim numbers continue to rise, schools, public gatherings, government agencies have been shutdown.
  • Medical teams have responded from all over the world.
  • CDC sent personnel, vaccines to region. Reminder: An outbreak is defined by CDC as 3 or more cases. 10 “mainland” U.S. states have reported measles outbreaks this year.

Why It Matters: America has the highest number of measles cases in more than 25 years - with most cases concentrated in New York State. No deaths have been reported. Samoa/American Samoa serves as an interesting test cases for what can happen to isolated communities with low vaccination rates.

view sources