A mother has spoken of the terrifying moment her toddler twins were left fighting for their lives after catching measles despite both of them being vaccinated.
Stephanie Peeni, who is originally from Queensland but now lives in New Zealand, said her three-year-old twins - daughter Valentina and son Carter - started suffering cold-like symptoms such as a fever, cough and runny nose within one day.
By day five, the highly contagious disease had ravaged their tiny bodies after itchy, red rashes broke out all over their faces, necks, torsos, arms and legs.
The condition became so severe for little Valentina that her eyes were swollen shut as her twin brother vomited blood.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, the mother-of-four wanted to share harrowing pictures of her twins covered in painful rashes to warn parents about the symptoms after they made a remarkable recovery.
Australian mother Stephanie Peeni has shared gut-wrenching pictures of her twins (daughter Valentina pictured) after they contracted measles earlier this month
The distraught mother said her toddler twins started suffering cold-like symptoms such as a fever, a cough and a runny nose all within one day. By day five, their entire bodies were covered in itchy, red rashes (son Carter pictured)
The mother wanted to warn parents of the symptoms after her healthy twins caught measles
How successful are vaccines?
Vaccination is the most effective preventative measure against infectious diseases. Most vaccine-preventable illnesses are highly contagious, spread quickly and can cause severe complications which may impact on our quality of life.
When enough people in the community are vaccinated, the spread of a disease slows down or stops completely. So as long as enough people are vaccinated, diseases will not spread.
- Measles, mumps, rubella – 95 out of every 100 people vaccinated will be completely immune
- Whooping cough – about 85 out of every 100 people vaccinated will be completely immune
Source: Better Health Victoria
'My heart sank. I know that vaccinations aren't 100 per cent preventive but I still never thought that it would happen to my babies, I was absolutely terrified,' Mrs Peeni told Daily Mail Australia.
'I, like so many others, were so naive in thinking measles was just glorified chickenpox. Boy, I was wrong. Measles absolutely has the potential to be life-threatening. The twins had an unbelievably horrific measles experience.'
The mother - who documents her family life on Instagram under thepeenifolk - said the twins had developed a fever, a cough and a slight runny nose on the first day.
'Then on the fourth day of constant fevers, they broke out in a slight rash on their torso. Their bodies within hours were covered in red, risen itchy rashes,' she said.
'A few hours later the rash developed on their neck and behind their ears and within 24 hours it covered their whole body.'
Mother Stephanie Peeni (pictured with her twins) said little Valentina's condition became so severe her eyes were swollen shut as her twin brother vomited blood
Within 24 hours of developing a small rash on their torso, their bodies were covered in rashes
Carter (left) and Valentina (right) both developed middle-ear infections as well as other serious symptoms including sky-high fevers
The twin siblings were rushed to hospital where they battled against measles for five days
How old should children be when they're vaccinated?
The best protection against measles is immunisation with two doses of measles-containing vaccine, given at least four weeks apart.
In Australia two doses of measles containing vaccine are offered to children.
The first dose is scheduled at 12 months of age as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The second dose is scheduled at 18 months of age as measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine. These vaccines provide protection against mumps, German measles, and chicken pox as well as measles.
The twin brother and sister were rushed to hospital where they battled against measles for five excruciating days.
'My twins are generally really healthy and measles had them hospitalised for five days. The doctors said there were no treatments and it was just a waiting game,' she said.
'The first night in hospital, Carter had around eight blood noses and at one stage, vomited blood. They both had laryngitis and middle ear infections. They would wake up screaming from the body aches.
'Valentina's eyes became so swollen that she couldn't see and every time she would wake from a sleep her eyes were glued shut from the discharge, which really terrified her.
'The rashes lasted around five days, with the rash on Valentina's face still visible to this day.'
The toddlers also developed sky-high fevers of more than 40°C.
The toddler twins developed sky-high fevers of more than 40°C after they developed rashes
Little Carter experienced up to eight blood noses and he even vomited blood at one point
The terrified mother said there were moments where she thought Valentina (left) was not going to survive the disease after she struggled to talk and eat
What is measles?
Measles is caused by the measles virus, spread by contact with infected people's body fluids.
The disease is usually spread when a person breathes in the measles virus that has been coughed or sneezed into the air by an infectious person.
Measles is one of the most easily spread of all human infections. Just being in the same room as someone with measles can result in infection.
- feeling unwell
- runny nose
- dry cough
- sore, red eyes (conjunctivitis)
- red rash
Source: NSW Health
'They were battling temperatures of 41 degrees for days on end despite all our efforts to cool them down with cool cloths,' Mrs Peeni said.
'It was Panadol and Ibuprofen back to back with ice blocks as that is all they would eat for around four days.'
The terrified mother said there were moments where she thought Valentina was not going to survive the disease.
'It was the look in her eyes,' Mrs Peeni said.
'She was vacant. She wouldn't talk or eat, she was very lethargic. The doctors said they would need to monitor her closely as encephalitis can occur and is an extremely serious complication of measles.
'On day two of being In hospital, she also developed a secondary lower respiratory tract infection which had the potential to turn into pneumonia.
'It was terrifying as all I could do was wait and pray.'
The mother-of-four wanted to share her terrifying ordeal to warn parents about measles
Mrs Peeni with her family - holding baby girl Manaia, alongside twins Carter and Valentina, eldest daughter Bun and husband Neiks
How can measles be treated?
People with measles infection are normally advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take paracetamol to treat the fever.
There is no specific treatment.
But against all odds, little Carter and Valentina pulled through as they are now at home recovering.
By sharing her story, the mother wanted to warn parents about measles so they can identify the common symptoms early and ensure their own children are vaccinated.
'People need to know the symptoms of measles and act swiftly because a child with measles can deteriorate very quickly,' she said.
'The warning signs are high fevers, cough and a runny nose. It's hard because they're the same symptoms as your common cold.
'But I beg parents to stay vigilant and monitor the child closely to check for any slight rash that may appear.'
By sharing her story, the mother wanted to warn parents about measles so they can identify the common symptoms early
The Australian mother-of-four, who's now based in NZ, documents her family life on Instagram
Dr Richard Kidd, who is the chair of the Australian Medical Association Council of General Practice, said vaccination is the most effective preventative measure against measles.
'I'm a strong advocate for vaccination because prevention is better than cure. Measles can kill as many as one in 10 people, and leave many others severely disabled for the rest of their lives,' Dr Kidd told Daily Mail Australia.
'Vaccines are safe and highly effective for the vast majority of the population. Vaccination is the cheapest, effective way of preventing the worst diseases you can imagine.
'The chances for a vaccinated person to get measles are very, very small.'
The Brisbane-based doctor told Daily Mail Australia vaccines can become less effective or even ineffective if they are frozen or get too warm.
'If the vaccines were used out of date, or they were too warm or stored too cold, it can damage the vaccines,' Dr Kidd said.
'There are sadly some very small group of people who don't respond to vaccine. There isn't an easy way to pick who that might be but having said that, the best way to prevent measles is vaccination.
'Sadly nothing in this world is perfect. For whatever reason it didn't work, it's very sad to hear what happened to the twins, it is one of the rare cases.'
Stephanie Peeni has compiled a guide to help parents recognise the symptoms of measles, which can be found on her Instagram.