Every parent's worst nightmare is seeing their child in pain or sick but powerless to change that. A Tauranga mother is on a mission to spread awareness of the potentially deadly disease after experiencing the horrors of measles first hand. Bay of Plenty Times health reporter Jean Bell finds out their story.
A Tauranga mother is urging parents to take the perils of measles seriously after she spent nearly a week in hospital with her sick toddler twins.
Full-time mother Stephanie Peeni spent five days in the hospital with her 3-year-old twins, Carter and Valentina, after the usually-boisterous toddlers fell ill with the measles.
"It was traumatic," she said.
"It will take me a while to get over that as it's been really mentally draining."
The twins are almost back to full health and Peeni welcomes the return of troublesome toddler antics.
"I welcome the screaming and yelling now," she laughs.
Peeni, who also runs an Instagram page documenting her life as a stay-at-home mum, said she was not pro or anti-vaccination, but urged parents to be aware and vigilant of the symptoms and know what to do if their child did get measles.
The nightmare began when her 6-month-old-baby Manaia got a mild case of the measles but recovered quickly.
The twins had received one dose of the MMR but were not due for their second dose until they were 4.
On August 1, Peeni got a call from Carter's daycare saying that he had a fever and to come and pick him up.
When she arrived, Valentina was ill with a fever too.
She took the twins home. During the weekend, both suffered from a mild fever but no rash appeared.
But on August 5, the twins took a turn for the worse.
There was still no rash, but they were lethargic, had no appetite, and had swelling around the eyes.
By Tuesday morning, Carter had started to develop a rash. Six hours later, Valentina also began to show red splotches on her skin.
Peeni called an ambulance, to prevent the risk of spreading the disease further, and the twins and herself were whipped off to the hospital.
They were admitted to a hospital ward at 3am.
Carter had about eight blood noses, vomited blood and was running temperature in the low 40Cs.
"It was terrifying for both me and him."
Meanwhile, Valentina got conjunctivitis, which left her eyes swollen and glued shut.
On Wednesday, the twins slept all day and barely ate.
"It was just a waiting game ... it's the most painful thing," Peeni said.
"It was absolutely horrific"
There were points where she wondered if Valentina was going to make it but on Thursday, the children were feeling better.
They played with some playdough and stickers for a short time before quickly running out of energy and falling asleep.
Peeni said they were released on Sunday and the doctors said the children were lucky to be healthy with good immune systems.
They have now bounced back to good health, but Valentina still has signs of the rash etched on to her face.
Peeni was not sure what the source of the measles was. She said a family friend who had stayed with the family had been ill but had tested negative for the illness.
She now wants to spread awareness about the horrors of measles.
"I don't wish any parent to go through that," she said.
Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Jim Miller said there had been 24 cases of measles in the Western Bay of Plenty since the start of 2019.
There had been two cases earlier this month, but Miller said there had been no confirmed cases of measles in the Bay of Plenty since.
Given measles was circulating in New Zealand, especially in the Auckland region, he said everyone needed to be aware of the illness and how to protect themselves.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said immunisation was the best protection against measles.
The spokesperson said the ministry's priority was to get people, especially children who had not been innoculated, to be vaccinated.
If people were not sure whether they or a family member had been vaccinated, the Ministry urged them to book a GP appointment to get it done.
"MMR vaccine is free for those under 50 years who have not had two documented doses," the spokesperson said.
"One dose of vaccine is effective in 95 per cent of people. After two doses, more than 99 per cent people are protected.
"The Ministry is keeping in close contact with Pharmac, who advise there is enough vaccine in New Zealand to handle any reactive increase in vaccination demand and maintain our national immunisation schedule."
- Measles is a highly infectious viral illness and is spread from person to person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing. Just being in the same room as someone with measles can lead to infection if you are not immune.
- Measles can be serious with around one in 10 people who get measles needing to be hospitalised.
- Early symptoms include a fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough.
- After three to five days a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and head and then spreads down the body.
- Anyone who thought they had measles should stay home and call their doctor or Healthline to arrange an assessment, to avoid putting anyone else at risk.
- Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to measles or is exhibiting symptoms should not go to the ED or after-hours clinic or general practitioner. Instead, call your GP any time, 24/7 for free health advice.
- For more information or advice on measles, please call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see the Ministry of Health's measles page
For more information:
- Toi Te Ora Public Health website: www.toiteora.govt.nz/measles
- Immunisation Advisory Centre free phone: 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863)
- Immunisation Advisory Centre website: www.immune.org.nz
- Ministry of Health 2019 measles outbreak information: www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/measles/2019-measles-outbreak-information
- Ministry of Health website: www.health.govt.nz/measles
- Don't Assume You're Immune website: www.getimmunised.org.nz