A Kiwi mother has spoken of her "heartbreak" at watching her 7-month-old daughter fight for her life after catching measles, shortly after her twin toddlers did the same.

Stephanie Peeni shared her family's horrific ordeal to social media in a warning for parents to "get educated and stay vigilant" about the highly-contagious disease that is gripping the country with the biggest outbreak in decades.

Peeni, from the Bay of Plenty, told the Daily Mail her baby fell severely ill shortly after her twin 3-year-old siblings contracted the disease.

Both the twins had had their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine but had not had their second.

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Her 7-month-old had not been vaccinated at all as the first MMR vaccine is not given until 12 months of age.

However she told the Herald today her 6-year-old - who has been fully immunised with two doses of the MMR vaccine - has not caught the measles despite being in close contact with her three ill siblings. Both she and her partner were also fully vaccinated and are fine.

Peeni didn't want to tell other people whether they should vaccinate their children.

"The facts are, my six-year-old had both doses of MMR, and she didn't get it. If vaccines didn't work, she would have got it," she told the Herald.

Peeni earlier told the Daily Mail she was "absolutely heartbroken" watching Manaia's tiny body fight so hard.

Her baby was rushed to hospital last Tuesday, with a temperature of 41C, heart rate sitting at 190 and lips blue from the lack of oxygen.

"She refused to breastfeed all week and so I was expressing and force feeding her my milk via a syringe every hour of the day and night," Peeni wrote on social media.

"I tried everything I could to avoid a gastric nasal tube. Her fevers continued on until yesterday, making it eight days of fevers in total."

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Stephanie Peeni shared photos of her 7-month-old daughter on social media to raise awareness about the disease. Photo / Supplied
Stephanie Peeni shared photos of her 7-month-old daughter on social media to raise awareness about the disease. Photo / Supplied

On Sunday she ate her first solids.

"Her little body really copped it inside and out but she is just as resilient as her big brother and sister, this pickle of mine."

Peeni said the process had left her "numb and lost for words".

"I was still healing from my ordeal with the twins when [she] fell ill and it's kind of just been a whirlwind since then."

She wanted to share her story to raise awareness about the disease.

"My babies are perfectly healthy and look at what it did to them.

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"So imagine a child who has a weak immune system, or a heart condition or an adult who is fighting cancer.

"Measles can kill, so don't be ignorant. Be educated, be vigilant."

The family's battle comes as the country experiences its worst measles outbreak in decades, with over 700 cases this year - the vast majority in Auckland.

Experts warn the spread will likely continue unless nationwide immunisation rates improve.

"Unless New Zealand can do more to improve our community immunity, to stop these cases continuing to spread to others, we are at significant risk of losing our elimination status," Immunisation Advisory Centre director and GP Dr Nikki Turner told the Herald earlier this month.

Stephanie Peeni's 7-month-old daughter had not been vaccinated as the MMR vaccine is not given to babies until 12 months of age. Photo / Supplied
Stephanie Peeni's 7-month-old daughter had not been vaccinated as the MMR vaccine is not given to babies until 12 months of age. Photo / Supplied

Turner said it would take several years to get that status back, which was a "huge concern" as further outbreaks would be likely.

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The best protection from measles is to have two MMR vaccinations. MMR is available from the family doctor and is free for people 1-50 years.

Children can receive the vaccination at 12 months and at 4 years, though infants 6 months and older can receive the vaccination if travelling to countries with measles outbreaks.

New Zealand gained the WHO measles elimination status for the first time in 2017 after proving there had been no outbreak for more than three years. The WHO aims for 95 per cent immunity coverage nationwide. However, New Zealand currently only has 91 per cent, with timely infant immunisation rates as low as 61 per cent in some regions.

Nine out of 10 people who contracted measles this year had not been vaccinated or didn't know their vaccination status, figures by Government agency, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research figures, showed.

MEASLES FACTS:

• Measles is a highly infectious viral illness spread by contact with respiratory secretions through coughing and sneezing.

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• It can be deadly - the World Health Organisation says in developed countries like NZ death occurs in one to two cases out of every 1,000.

• People are infectious from five days before the onset of the rash to five days after the rash starts.

• Infected persons should stay in isolation - staying home from school or work - during this time.

• The best protection from measles is to have two MMR vaccinations. MMR is available from your family practice and is free for people 1-50 years.

• People are considered immune if they have received two doses of MMR vaccine, have had a measles illness previously, or were born before 1969.

• If you are concerned about measles call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or call your GP. Please do not just turn up to your GP, after hours or emergency department as you could potentially infect others.

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