Vaccination is the closest thing to a silver bullet but it takes time to take effect.
“Once you could get your immunisation rates up high enough measles has got nowhere to go but it takes a couple of weeks for the vaccine to be effective,” says Chris, a communicable diseases epidemiologist who provided technical support to Samoa Red Cross.
The support Samoa Red Cross offered – from comforting people to helping them get to a hospital to showing them how to prevent infection – made a big difference, says Ellie.
Samoa is a close-knit community and volunteers would often be supporting people they knew. “They trust them in a way they may not trust some of the other people who would come in to share some of these messages.”
Samoa Red Cross volunteers let people know how to safe stay during a measles outbreak: Photo: IFRC/Ellie van Baaren
More than 65 volunteers helped during the height of the crisis, many of them working six days a week and sleeping at the Red Cross headquarters.
Ellie, who helped Samoa Red Cross bring attention to the crisis and response, says the volunteers were like a family. “It was amazing to see how hard they were pushing themselves … Everyone I talked to was like ‘this is my service, these are my people, this is my country and I need to do something’.”
The psychological impact of this outbreak will last for some time, she says. “It’s a very socially connected country and everybody was feeling some kind of impact – and it has likely fed into some of the concern now around novel coronavirus.