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Woman’s death first from measles in US since 2003
Seattle: A woman in Washington state died from measles in the northern hemisphere spring, the first measles death in the US since 2003 and the first in the state since 1990, health officials said.
The woman lacked some of measles’ common symptoms, such as a rash, so the infection was not discovered until an autopsy, Washington state Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer said on Thursday.
It is the 11th case of measles in Washington state this year, Mr Moyer said, following an outbreak of measles at Disneyland in California late last year.
The Disneyland outbreak sparked an intense debate around America about mandating vaccinations for schoolchildren, which some parents oppose, and eventually sickened more than 140 people across the country and in Mexico and Canada.
Measles is highly contagious and spreads when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes, however, death is extremely rare, Mr Moyer said.
Officials didn’t say whether the woman had been vaccinated, but they did note she had a compromised immune system.
They withheld her age to protect her identity but said she was not elderly.
The woman was in hospital for several health conditions in the northern spring at a facility on the Olympic Peninsula.
She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles, Mr Moyer says and it was then she was most likely exposed.
An autopsy concluded the cause of death was pneumonia due to measles.
“This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunising as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles,” Mr Moyer said.
“People with compromised immune systems cannot be vaccinated against measles. Even when vaccinated, they may not have a good immune response when exposed to disease; they may be especially vulnerable to disease outbreaks.”
The last active case of measles in Washington was reported in late April.