Measles Outbreak in Samoa Kills 6. Schools Closed. State of Emergency Declared
(R) The measles virus pictured under a microscope. PHIL / CDC
The Pacific Island nation of Samoa declared a state of emergency this week, closed all of its schools and limited the number of public gatherings allowed after a measles outbreak has swept across the country of just 200,000 people, according to Reuters.
The tiny country that is just south of the equator in the Pacific ocean, half way between New Zealand and Hawaii, has seen at least 716 suspected cases of measles, over 40 percent have required hospitalization. The six deaths were mostly infants under two, according to Reuters.
Nearly 100 people remain hospitalized with 15 in intensive care. The National University of Samoa, the island's only university, told students to stay home and indefinitely postponed exams, according to the New Zealand Herald.
The government announced that official plans for compulsory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunizations would be published on Monday, according to Deutsche Welle.
"MMR vaccinations for members of the public who have not yet received a vaccination injection is now a mandatory legal requirement for all of Samoa," it said.
Also, on Friday, the Samoan government declared that measles vaccinations would be mandatory. It also planned to limit exposure by prohibiting children under 17 gathering in public or entering medical centers unless they are sick, according to the New York Times.
However, vaccinations rates in Samoa are extremely low. The numbers plummeted after two nurses incorrectly mixed a vaccine with an anesthetic, which killed two infants, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The immunization rate fell to as low as 30 percent last year from about 60 percent in 2016, according to figures from the World Health Organization, as The New York Times reported.
Those numbers stand in stark contrast to the nearby islands of Fiji, Tonga and American Samoa where outbreaks have been reported, but nearly 90 percent of children have been immunized, which is near the requisite number needed to prevent an epidemic, as the New York Times reported.
"The way it is going now and the poor (immunization) coverage, we are anticipating the worst to come," said Samoa's Director General of Health Leausa Take Naseri, as Reuters reported. He added that the children who died had not been vaccinated.
Experts have criticized the Samoan government for a slow and inadequate response to the outbreak.
"It's as bad as you're seeing and probably worse," said Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, as the New York Times reported. "This is very much out of control."
Nearby countries have offered nurses and vaccinations to help stop the outbreak. Winston Peters, the New Zealand foreign affairs minister, said today that his country would send 18 more vaccination nurses, upping their total to 30, along with 3,000 units of the vaccine.
"Measles is highly contagious, and the outbreak has taken lives in Samoa," Peters said in a statement, as Reuters reported. "It is in everybody's interests that we work together to stop its spread."
Australia also sent medical aid and 26 practitioners with supplies and a portable intensive care unit. American Samoa announced that travelers coming from Samoa must provide proof of measles vaccination or they will be denied entry, according to the New York Times.
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- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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