Measles Death: U.S. Reports First Death From Measles In 12 Years

A measles death has been reported, marking the first death from the measles in the United States in 12 years.

According to CNN, the Washington State Department of Health reported that they had confirmed the first death linked to the measles since 2003.

The woman, who has not been identified, had the measles, but they had gone undetected. It was only through an autopsy that it was discovered that she had contracted the virus. There was a recent outbreak in Clallam County, and officials believe she probably came in contact with the virus while at a health care facility during that time.

“The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system. She didn’t have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection wasn’t discovered until after her death. The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles,” the health department said.

William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, said pneumonia is one of the most common complications of the measles, and the most common cause of death from the virus, KSDK reports.

Below is a list of the common symptoms associated with the virus as reported by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Fever.
  • Dry cough.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots.

The health department reports that there have been 11 people have been diagnosed with the measles in Washington state, six of them being in Clallam County.

“The last active case of measles in Washington this year was reported in late April. Within about three weeks of exposure to someone with measles, it’s possible to develop the disease. Since more than three weeks has already passed since the last active measles case, no one who had contact with one of the known cases is any longer at risk for developing measles from those exposures,” the health department said.

The last major measles epidemic took place from 1989 to 1991, infecting 55,000 people and killing 166. This outbreak urged the CDC to recommend that children receive two shots for measles rather than just one.

“This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles,” a news release said. “People with compromised immune systems often 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. Public health officials recommend that everyone who is eligible for the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine get vaccinated so they can help protect themselves, their families, and the vulnerable people in their community.”

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