The last measles in-patient in Samoa comes home

Everyone at UK-Med was delighted to see reports last week that the last two measles patients, an 11-month-old and a one-year-old, were discharged from the main hospital in Apia.

Although this does not signal the end of the epidemic, it does mark a significant point in the nation-wide measles outbreak that has gripped the island state since September 2019. As of 2:00pm 28/12/19 there had been a total of 5,655 measles cases have been reported and 82 measles-related deaths reported by health facilities.

The two UK Emergency Medical Teams that responded to the call from the Ministry of Health in Samoa and colleagues in AUSMAT between the 1st and 28th December provided support to an estimated 583 patients.

For the coming month, we would like to share with you the stories of some of the families we met throughout December, and hear from our dedicated team members who joined the response.

We would like to thank our donor the Department for International Development for funding the response through UK Aid, allowing our team to provide high quality clinical and support to the hundreds of families affected.

Muagutu’s story

Muagutu was just over 1 years old when he was admitted to Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital with a severe case of measles. He was in hospital for 1 month and in the Emu tent – the over-flow tent for measles cases built by the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) and staffed by a mix of British, Australian, Kiwi and Samoan clinicians working together – for nearly 3 weeks.

Marc Robinson, a UK EMT nurse, treated Muagutu from when he was first admitted and all the way throughout his stay in the Emu tent.

“Muagutu on admission to hospital was critically unwell from measles which has left him with a chronic lung condition.

Muagutu was initially admitted to the children’s high dependency with measles pneumonia. He needed constant oxygen/ventilation supplementation for several weeks. He was very carefully medically managed and weaned off the oxygen supplementation. For many weeks his oxygen levels became extremely low if taken off the smallest amount of oxygen.

He was a long stay patient in the EMU tented ward staffed by the UK EMT the whole time the tent was in situ. We were fortunate enough to see this sick and unhappy young child return to a smiling, happy toddler.

He will need lifelong respiratory care along with specific measles follow up. Thankfully the measles clinic at TTM is being set up to assist patients like Muagutu. Without a mixture of the national and international medical teams along with his dedicated family to support him through his hospital stay and his rehabilitation, he would most likely not have survived.”

Muagutu’s mother Annalynn took it in turns with grandmother Elizabeth staying the night in the tent so that he would always have someone by his side. She has another son (3 years old) at home who was fortunately not affected by the measles outbreak.

Muagutu is the first member of the family ever to be admitted to hospital but is now well enough to go home and has been discharged, although he will come in for a follow up appointment in a week’s time.

Annalynn is looking forward to being home with her sons and was excited to have Christmas at home with her whole family together again. She is very thankful to both the national and international staff who have helped them. “Without their support, we wouldn’t have made it this far.” She says. Annalynn wants to become a nurse.

Smiti Bihari, a Paediatric Doctor based in Wales, was part of team two and said:

“It was quite extraordinary to be part of a team of NHS medics who were able to help our Samoan colleagues in their time of need. Together we looked after very small children with very severe complications of the disease. I am proud of what we achieved through international team work and dedication. I have come home with an even stronger commitment to child health advocacy and health promotion within the NHS, especially when it comes to preventable diseases in children.”

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