Author: Meghan Lawrence

Can you imagine living in the middle of a measles outbreak with a child who has a 50 per cent chance of dying if they contract it?

That's exactly what Jo Denvir and Daniel Nixon have to face every day with their 12-year-old son Max.

Max was born with genetic kidney disease, resulting in him needing a kidney transplant two years ago.

Daniel Nixon, Jo Denvir and their son Max Denvir-Nixon.

Although he was fully immunised against measles, the transplant and subsequent medication has cancelled out his immunity to this potentially deadly disease.

Now every time he leaves the house he has to wear a face mask, and every day he goes to school during the outbreak he could be putting his life in danger.

He can't go to the movies or anywhere with crowds, so lives in seclusion between home and school.

Max and his mother Jo took part in a video with Waitematā District Health Board in order to make a plea to the community to vaccinate against measles - for the sake of Max's life.

"The hard thing is measles is a preventable disease and it is a dangerous disease for all children, but for children with low immune systems - like Max - it's 50 per cent fatality rate so actually quite terrifying," Jo said in the video.

"There's lots of kids like Max who have low immune systems - kids who are getting treated for cancer have no immune system, as well as all the transplant kids that are at more risk.

"Please seriously think about getting you children immunised, so that my child can actually have a life."

Max pleaded: "Please get your shots everyone - so kids like me can not have to wear these masks all the time, so we can go to the shops and movies with friends, and keep going to school."

Jo told the Herald the Auckland measles outbreak has had a profound impact on her son's life.

Every time 12-year-old Max Denvir-Nixon leaves the house he has to wear a face mask.

"The outbreak means we can't go anywhere or do anything. We have to be really careful, and not go anywhere there are crowds," she said.

"We are working really closely with the school, and they have been really good at sending out notifications to everyone and letting them know that Max is at risk – so if anyone thinks they have come in contact, to let them know so we can stop straight away.

"But it's quite scary because it's so infectious. It's really worrying, and gets more worrying every day."

Jo said the family were also in close contact with the infectious disease specialists at Starship Hospital around when Max should stop going to school.

"But obviously we are really reluctant to do that, even though it's terrifying, because he loves being at school and hasn't been able to be there for so long.

"It would be so cruel if he had to stop again, so we are trying to balance it on a daily basis and weigh up whether the risk is too great for us now," she said.

"It's terrifying. I'm not sleeping and am really worried as I don't know quite what to do – but he doesn't want to stop school, he has had a pretty lonely life anyway."

Jo said Max is "totally unprotected from measles" due to having a negative serology post-transplant and being on immunosuppressant medication.

This means the family rely on others to get immunised in order to keep Max safe.

"His body just doesn't have anything to fight measles with, so for us, we have to rely on other people being immunised to keep our child alive basically."

If the outbreak continues, and people don't get immunised, Jo said Max's life "is going to be miserable".

"He will be locked in a bubble or run the risk of 50 per cent chance of dying if he gets measles," she said.

"I need people to think about children like Max, and children who are fighting cancer – the children who don't have an immune system and don't have a choice to get immunised. They need people to protect them.

"There is so much research around that has proven the vaccines are safe, and I have a child with a 50 per cent chance of dying if he gets measles – that is a fact.

"So I would ask them to look at the whole picture and all of the facts, including Max's risk."

While Max battles to have a life, while staying safe from measles, his father Daniel is also undergoing dialysis for kidney disease.

Daniel first had a kidney transplant 17 years ago, but is now on the waiting list for a second transplant.

Measles Outbreak Facts:

  • Four strains of measles are circulating within New Zealand, infecting as many as 30 people per day in Auckland.
  • There are now 804 confirmed cases of the highly infectious disease in Auckland alone - an increase of 45 since Friday - with at least 520 in the Counties Manukau district health board area.
  • The number of people infected with measles nationally soared to 963 yesterday, according to ESR figures.
  • The latest figures make this New Zealand's worst measles epidemic in at least 22 years.
Note from Nighthawk.NZ:

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