US Has First Measles Death in 12 Years
Washington woman succumbed to pneumonia caused by measles: health officials
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2015 2:55 PM CDT
This undated image made available by the CDC on Feb. 4, 2015, shows an electron microscope image of a measles virus particle, center.   (AP Photo/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cynthia Goldsmith)
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(Newser) – A woman in Washington state who fell ill earlier this year and died is now said to have died from pneumonia caused by measles—making it what health officials say is the first measles death in the country since 2003, the Seattle Times reports. The cause of death of the woman, who was in her 20s, was determined only after her autopsy, reports USA Today. Her illness is likely linked to an outbreak that took place in Clallam County in the spring: She was reportedly treated at a medical center at the same time as another patient who later developed a rash and was determined to be contagious for measles; the paper notes the disease can be spread even before outward symptoms manifest.

The woman's death makes it the sixth confirmed measles case in Clallam County, and the 11th in Washington this year, per the Times. Many of the cases nationwide—178 so far this year, notes the CDC—were part of a larger outbreak believed to have started in Disneyland. State health officials say the woman had "several other health conditions" and was taking meds that helped suppress her immune system. A California state senator and pediatrician who advocated for his state's tougher vaccine laws tells USA Today that he was "so sorry to hear about this preventable tragedy" and that it underscores "exactly why the law" is necessary. (Jim Carrey does not agree with him.)