Measles leads to 1st U.S. death in 12 years

July 3, 2015 10:44 am 

SAN FRANCISCO, July 3 — An autopsy has revealed that the death of a woman this spring in Washington State on the U.S. west coast was due to an undetected measles infection.

The woman's death from measles was the first in the country in 12 years as the previous confirmed measles death in the United States was reported in 2003.

While withholding the woman's identity, the Washington State Department of Health said Thursday that she was most likely exposed to measles at a medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County, northwest of Seattle.

The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles. Authorities found that she had a suppressed immune system due to several other health conditions and was on medications. And she did not have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection was not discovered until after her death.

Measles is highly contagious even before the rash starts, and is easily spread when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. Within about three weeks of exposure to someone with measles, it is possible to develop the disease.

The measles diagnosis for the deceased woman brought Washington State's case count to 11, and was the sixth in Clallam County for the year.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counted 178 people in 24 states and the District of Columbia with measles from Jan. 1 through June 26 this year. Two-thirds of the cases were linked to an outbreak in Disneyland in Orange County, California, in December last year.

In releasing the information about the measles death, the Washington State Department of Health said "this tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles." (PNA/Xinhua)



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