(Reuters) – Fiji has asked its sports federations to postpone all competitions until January, in a bid to rein in the spread of a measles outbreak that has killed dozens in the neighboring Pacific nation of Samoa.
The highly infectious disease has been crossing the globe, recently finding a susceptible population in Samoa, where the official death toll was 53 on Monday.
Fiji, with a much higher vaccination rate than Samoa, has recorded only 15 cases and no deaths, health authorities say, but has warned people to avoid affected areas and cancel events likely to draw crowds.
“The gathering of youth and people for sporting events is not right and we should discourage it,” Peter Mazey, the chairman of the Fiji National Sports Commission, said in a statement released with the sports ministry and Olympic panel.
“Working with the health ministry, we are going to try to stop it, now that we have 15 cases in the country.”
Fiji’s soccer, beach volleyball and netball governing bodies have already suspended competitions.
On Friday, the health ministry said it had vaccinated close to 100,000 people since declaring the outbreak on Nov. 7.
Pacific nation Tonga is also battling a measles outbreak that led to its women’s rugby team having to be quarantined from a major regional championship in Fiji last month.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)