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Hawaii lab confirms 12th measles case for American Samoa

MMR vaccine
Meanwhile, 20 of the 22 local daycare centers re-opened Monday

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa now has 12 laboratory confirmed measles cases while 20 out of the 22 daycare centers opened yesterday as Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga requests a detailed report from Immigration on a solid estimate of overstayers.

These were some of the issues discussed during the cabinet briefing on the measles update last Sunday afternoon at the Emergency Operations Center, where Lolo announced that there are no changes to current policies in place for the measles outbreak.


Health Department epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa said that as of Jan 11, 2020 there were 35 suspected measles cases reported from LBJ Medical Center and 34 samples were sent for testing to the Hawaii state laboratory.

He said American Samoa  now has 12 laboratory confirmed measles cases, with one suspected case pending test results, and DoH carried out “contact tracing” for the latest suspected case.

In past briefings, DoH provided an outlook on cases in Samoa; but this time, the only updated data was up to Jan. 6th - which shows 83 deaths in Samoa. Dr. Tufa said they have tried several times to get the latest from the Samoa Ministry of Health with no success -but they will continue this week.

Lolo urged DoH to do more to get the latest update as the data is important to American Samoa’s current state of emergency, as well as its border protection efforts.

LBJ in its briefing shared the profile of the 12th confirmed case: a single, unemployed, male, 28, who resides in Fagaitua and had not traveled outside of the territory in the last three months. The individual, who was born here, already had his two MMR shots.

According to LBJ, there are two required MMR shots for an individual. The first MMR shot offers 92% protection while the second dose takes that percent up to 97%, leaving a 3% possibility of getting measles. It was stressed during the briefing - and in past briefings - that vaccination is the best protection against measles.

LBJ’s profile data shows that this individual had all the symptoms of measles - fever, cough, rash, and diarrhea -  when he was seen at the LBJ Emergency Room on Dec. 31, 2019  and the results came back positive last Thursday.

For the pending case awaiting results from the Hawaii lab, the individual is a 27-year-old female who resides in Aoa. She was born in Samoa, has no record of MMR shots, and had not traveled outside of the territory in the last three months, but is a legal resident who was seen at LBJ recently.

Lolo questioned the samples sent to Hawaii for testing, saying every time a suspected case is sent out, it always comes back positive. And this has occurred frequently in the last 3 weeks.

Dr. Tufa explained that the “population we were focusing on are the adults - undocumented population” because they are the ones who are likely not going to report or seek treatment at LBJ, if they were to be stricken with measles.

“Most likely they will be treating themselves at home and recover from the measles without reporting to LBJ. In the meantime, they are still putting other people at risk of spreading the disease,” he said. “And this is the main reason why we suggested that we have mass vaccinations of the adult population. And so we did that.”

“Right now our coverage of the adult population is pretty high. However, we’re still going to see some cases popping up here and there; but not to the point where we’re thinking it’s a crisis. We will see one or two cases pop up, as we are trying to vaccinate everybody,” Dr. Tufa continued.

He said lab tests coming back positive “means our physicians and nurses at LBJ are screening these people very carefully, and sending to Hawaii the samples that are highly suspected of measles.”

“But at the end of an outbreak, we’ll see sporadic cases pop up here and there before it goes down to zero,” he concluded.


LBJ chief medical officer, Dr. Iotamo Saleapaga describes undocumented immigrants as a “dangerous population” as they are not coming in - kids or adults - to be vaccinated. He encouraged these individuals to do so through the “short amnesty” program, which has been extended to Feb. 6th this year.

In previous briefings, the number of undocumented immigrants - or overstayers - has been estimated at 3,000; but Chief Immigration Officer, Peseta Dennis Fuimaono during Sunday’s briefing gave a much lower figure.

Peseta said he doesn’t understand where that number came from, saying that prior to the start of the “short amnesty” on Dec. 8th, Immigration estimated numbers stood at 1,200+.

Lolo requested that an updated, detailed report on the number of overstayers be provided at least by Thursday this week so the numbers used by DoH can be adjusted accordingly, instead of the estimated 3,000 that has been used from the beginning.

He said Immigration should have some record showing that the person has overstayed the their permit - either 7 days, 14 days or 30 days. For the short amnesty, Peseta said that up to Jan. 10, 2020, a total of 850 individuals have already registered with their MMR records. Of the total registered applicants, 455 are from Samoa and the rest are other foreign nationals -  Chinese and Filipinos.

Since Nov. 14, 2019,  Immigration started requiring foreigners renewing their immigration IDs to provide their MMR records. This was one of the provisions of the governor’s initial declaration in November.


According to the Dept of Human and Social Services, out of the 22 local daycare centers, 20 were set to open yesterday (Monday) while 2 are not ready, due to issues that need to be resolved - including MMR records for the children.

The two centers that will remain closed until further notice are: Christmas Day Care and Hope House Day Care. DHSS explained that children 6-months and older at daycare centers are 96% compliant with MMRs, while daycare center employees are 97% compliant.


Vaccinations continue this week at the Leone and Amouli health centers for both adults and children; Tafuna Health Center and Fagaalu Well Baby Clinic for kids only; and DHSS in Utulei for adults only. DoH will continue school site visits this week from 8a.m.-2p.m., checking MMR records.

For more information call the measles hotline: 633-5871/633-5872.