Pacific / Tonga

Tonga's Health Ministry issues measles alert

16:23 pm on 22 October 2019

Tonga's Ministry of Health has issued a measles alert after 13 members of a school rugby team developed symptoms of the virus after returning from New Zealand.

Measles is very infectious and symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, sore and watery 'pink eyes,' and a rash.

Photo: 123rf

The team were playing in New Zealand in September, Matangi Tonga reports.

There were 60 boys and eight officials in the group. One of the boys fell sick with the measles while in New Zealand.

Since their return to Tonga on 1 October, 13 other members of the group developed symptoms of the disease.

Six of those cases have been confirmed by a laboratory test while another person who was in contact with the players is a suspected case, bringing the total to 15.

None of the cases were seriously ill, the newspaper reported.

The Ministry of Health has taken steps to prevent further spread of the virus including isolating current cases at home and conducting vaccinations of contacts.

The Ministry urged parents to ensure children were vaccinated according to the recommended immunisation schedule.

Chief executive Siale 'Akau'ola said it was "vital that we maintain our high vaccination rate in our ongoing fight against infectious disease".

Children who have been fully immunised against measles normally have more than 95 percent protection against the disease, Dr 'Akau'ola said.

Measles outbreak in Samoa

Meanwhile, Samoa's government last week declared a measles outbreak, appealing for parents to vaccinate their children after a 14-month toddler "highly suspected" to have measles died in Apia.

Samoa's Ministry of Health said today it had been been notified of nearly 170 suspected cases of measles since September.

Of the 169 suspected measles cases, seven cases had been confirmed as of last week with 83 additional specimen results pending including the one suspected measles-related death.

Out of the suspected cases, 49 were admitted to hospital, while the majority had recovered and been discharged with two adults and five children still in hospital.

Health officials earlier warned that if New Zealand's measles outbreak was not brought under control soon, the emerging epidemic in Samoa would only get worse.

From 1 January 2019 to 17 October 2019, there have been 1850 measles cases notified across New Zealand with 1495 of these in the Auckland region.

Interim data from Auckland Regional Public Health shows South Auckland's Pacific Island pre-schoolers are the most vulnerable group in the New Zealand 2019 outbreak.

Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas