Protect your kids: Immunisation advocate Cecily Johnson with a picture of her daughter, Laine, who died of measles complications 15-years ago.
Protect your kids: Immunisation advocate Cecily Johnson with a picture of her daughter, Laine, who died of measles complications 15-years ago. Blainey Woodham

Mum speaks out about measles death

IT was 15 years ago this week that Cecily Johnson lost her daughter Laine to a terrible, degenerative disease she suffered because of a measles infection.

Laine died of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, or SSPE , a disease that left her blind within two weeks of diagnosis at seven years old, mute not long after and bedridden by her death, aged 12.

Ms Johnson has understandably become a passionate advocate of vaccination because of the ordeal. The Pottsville woman said she usually tried not to mark the anniversary of her child's death, but rather remembers her birthdays as a more positive anniversary.

But it was hard not to remember it this week after a measles outbreak in Tweed Heads that has infected at least eight people.

Laine became infected with measles at 10-and-a-half months old, too early for her 12-month measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

SSPE usually hits seven to 10 years after a young child has had measles. About one in 100,000 people who catch measles get the disease.

Ms Johnson was, and still is, a registered nurse who regularly administers vaccinations, which made Laine's infection with measles and subsequent death more tragic.

“I am big time for it (vaccination),” Ms Johnson said. “SSPE is a terrible disease, every time I hear of an outbreak of measles I freak out.”

Not only is there a risk of suffering SSPE, but contracting measles itself can be devastating for anyone with a compromised immune system.

Unvaccinated babies are among the hardest hit by measles.

Ms Johnson goes to anti-immunisation meetings to ask questions, then shows the audience pictures of her daughter, even ones of her body in a coffin on the day of her funeral.

“I went to one two days after my daughter's funeral,” she recalled.

A chiropractor told the audience no child had died as a result of measles. “I pulled out photos of her in the coffin and told them it was my own daughter.

“They say there could be a reaction to vaccination ... but look at it, look at the odds, a lot more kids died of measles itself, or later of SSPE than suffer a side effect from a vaccination.

“All of you who don't want to vaccinate ... I get so upset, because you are putting all the little bubs at risk,” she said.

Read more:

Measles spreads to eight in Tweed

Growing fear of measles epidemic



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