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“Be cautious” about measles ‘news’ being shared on social media

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Alleged anti-vaxxer in Samoa charged

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “Be cautious about the news being shared on personal profiles, such as Facebook — be suspicious of its origin,” the Department of Health’s Command Center epidemiologist Aifili Tufa, PhD replied, when Samoa News asked him about the latest report on Facebook that “it has been confirmed that a 9-yr-old that lives in Mesepa has measles.”

Tufa said that as a matter of record, the DOH does not comment on such reports — instead advises the public to be aware of the source of the information, and that unless it’s confirmed information from the DOH or the LBJ Medical Center it’s suspect.

He said DOH’s standard procedure is that all suspected measles cases are tested, with samples being sent off-island by DOH. Results when returned are then shared only with parents or the patient — as they are protected under the HIPAA privacy rules.

Samoa News spoke briefly with an LBJ spokesperson, who said that to date, the medical center has had no confirmed cases this month — only the 2 confirmed last month, and they were not from American Samoa, they were travelers. She said LBJ refers all suspected cases to DOH for followup. 

From Nov. 10th - Dec. 4th, according to the DOH epidemiologist, there have been 19 samples collected from suspected cases, i.e. patients that show some symptoms that might be consistent with measles. (These cases include ones referred by LBJ to DOH.)

Tufa noted that LBJ is screening everyone who is coming in with some type of rash and fever — this is to widen the surveillance. He said the cases are probably not measles, but they are still taking samples and sending them off for testing, to confirm or rule out.

He said of the 19 tested so far, 5 came back negative, 2 were positive.

Samoa News asked about the 2 patients who tested positive, and he noted that before the tests even come back, DOH has in place what he calls “Contact Tracing” — a DOH team is sent out with a list of possible contacts by patients suspected of having measles. These contacts are checked for Immunization status, and if they don’t have proof they are inoculated right there and then. Tufa said this is part of their proactive steps to contain the disease.

He also noted that suspected patients are told to stay home, and only if complications develop associated with measles, such as severe headache, high fever, diarrhea, etc., then go to the hospital.

Asked if anyone has refused to be inoculated, he said, “no”.


A media release from Samoa’s Office of the Attorney General indicates that on Dec. 5, 2019 (Samoa Time), an alleged anti-vaxxer had been charged. According to the release, “The Attorney General and police can confirm that an alleged anti-vaxxer individual has been charged with incitement against the government vaccination order.

“The formal complaint was received by the AG from a concerned member of the public and duly referred to the police.

“The allegation is that the individual publicly stated with reference to the current vaccination drive "I'll be here to mop up your mess. Enjoy your killing spree."

The AG confirmed that "this person who had previously been warned by the police, has been charged and his bail is opposed for risk of reoffending.

“He is therefore in custody until the first available court date.

“We reiterate that while the goal is to keep the peace, we will advise police to act when we have no choice."