Lessons for Canada after Samoa's deadly measles outbreak
TORONTO -- A deadly measles outbreak in the South Pacific could serve as a renewed warning for Canada after a year that saw a surge in cases, said one Toronto-based infectious disease specialist.
While the numbers are far more dramatic on the small island of Samoa -- 72 dead among nearly 5,000 infected -- Canada has experienced a spike in reported cases. In 2018, there were fewer than 30 cases of measles nationally. This year, there were more than 100, an increase that illustrates the impact of the anti-vaccination movement.
“The pendulum unfortunately is slowly, potentially, swinging towards people choosing not to vaccinate themselves and others,” said Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, on CTV News Channel Monday. “Although we’re doing a lot better, we’re by no means perfect, and we really need to keep the foot on the gas pedal to make sure that people are vaccinated so we can prevent these infections.”
Measles outbreaks have surged this year all around the world. During the first seven months of the year, 182 countries reported more than 364,000 measles cases to the World Health Organization. In Samoa, which has a population of about 201,000, the September outbreak began after a major drop in vaccination rates. After two children reportedly received the wrong vaccine, trust in vaccine safety plummeted. In 2012, 72 per cent were vaccinated, but by 2018, the rates had dropped to 31 per cent.
After the outbreak, health officials began going door to door on the island bringing vaccines to people’s homes. Now 93 per cent of the population has received the vaccination, officials confirmed online Sunday.
Bogoch said that while it can be easier to quickly ensure a small island gets vaccinated, measles spreads very easily. The outbreak has already reached nearby islands, including Fiji and Tonga.
“When a case of measles is inevitably imported from somewhere else, it just can take off like wildfire and spread like wildfire. And that’s exactly what happened. Now we’re seeing the tragic outcomes of that,” said Bogoch. “It’s tragic.”
Latest update: 5,267 measles cases have been reported since the outbreak with 57 recorded in the last 24 hours.— Government of Samoa (@samoagovt) December 16, 2019
To date, 73 measles related deaths have been recorded.
VACCINATION UPDATE: As of 15 Dec, 93% of population have been vaccinated.