HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A two-day shutdown of all businesses across Samoa started Thursday morning as the country grapples with a measles outbreak that’s killed 60, mostly children.
The roads were also off-limits to the general public as first responders, including dozens of doctors and nurses from Hawaii, began an unprecedented mass vaccination campaign.
Red flags could be seen flying in front of hundreds of homes across the island nation. Those are meant to alert health officials that the people who live there need vaccines.
Over the next 48 hours, nearly 100 teams of health care providers will be going door-to-door to provide people with immunizations and to screen for live cases of the virus.
On Thursday, a medical caravan made up of health care providers from Oahu and Samoa snaked slowly down a dirt road in the village of Malie.
They stopped at homes and often people desperate for help would point the way.
Shortly after Hawaii News Now arrived at one Malie homestead, a man alerted the team to a sick baby.
But it was too late. She died moments later. A nurse from the traveling medical team wiped tears from her eyes as she immunized the grieving mother.
Dr. Nadine Tenn Salle, chief of pediatrics at The Queen’s Medical Center, said measles starts with a basic fever so can be tough for some to spot.
As doctors visited homes, they worked quickly to get treatment to children experiencing symptoms.
“You look at the top of his mouth he’s got the red spots," said Salle, as she gave a young boy an exam.
“The village itself is struggling with how long to keep people when they’re sick. They’re not accustomed to the measles and how rapidly it can get worse.”
At home after home, the team moved fast administering vaccines.
At some homesteads, entire families were immunized.
“We are so nervous that’s why we are always protect our children," said resident Tuiga Gaualofa.
And for good reason.
Across the road, the neighbors have been sick for close to a week.
On Thursday afternoon, the 15-year-old boy who lives there and his 7-year-old sister were rushed to the hospital.
In the capital city of Apia, officials say the hospital has turned into a massive pediatric measles ward.
Up to 250 people are showing up to the emergency room every day. There are so many patients many are being treated in tents.