Deadly measles outbreak in Samoa and the Pacific Islands

2 December 2019


There is a Measles crisis in Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Fiji. Samoa has declared a state of emergency. Over 20 children have died and up to 300 others are infected.

Cases of measles have been reported in people returning from travel to these countries. NSW Health are advising people to be alert for symptoms of measles after a man in his late thirties was diagnosed with measles following a trip to Samoa. See article for details about locations where the man spent time while infectious.

People in the same locations at the same times should be alert for signs and symptoms of measles until 8 December 2019 as it can take up to 18 days for symptoms to develop.

Vaccination for travellers

New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji should be considered high risk countries for measles when assessing travel risk and need for pre-travel vaccination of infants. Given the risk of measles being imported, travellers should ensure they are vaccinated.

How to manage suspected cases

  • Isolate - arrange to see suspected cases in their homes or at the end of the day.
  • Notify - inform your public health unit (PHU) immediately – don’t wait for test results before calling. The earlier a PHU knows about a suspected case the more effective containment interventions can be.
  • Test - collect a nose and throat specimen, and a first pass urine sample for nucleic acid testing and blood for measles serology. Mark all specimens as URGENT. Your PHU can assist in expediting testing, if indicated.
  • Display resources - posters and brochures alerting people to these outbreaks are available in English, Tongan and Samoan
  • Remain alert - be on the look-out for new imports following holiday travel, and potentially locally acquired cases

Advocate for immunisation

  • Vaccinate children at 12 and 18 months of age. Infants travelling to high risk areas can be vaccinated as early as 6 months
  • Discuss vaccination with your patients – overseas travel is an opportunity to encourage vaccination
  • Ensure that you and your staff are vaccinated.
  • Measles containing vaccines (MMR) are safe and available free in NSW for those born during or after 1966 who have not previously had two documented doses

pdf Click here (66 KB) to read the full alert.

Further information: