Washington: The first US Death from measles was reported on Thursday after the autopsy of a woman who died from pneumonia revealed she had the contagious infection. “The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles,” said a statement from the Department of Health in Clallam County, Washington. “The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system,” it added.
There have been 176 cases of measles in the United States so far this year, with 117 of those cases linked to the Disney outbreak, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The last US death from measles was in 2003. However, according to Health Authorities this case was not linked to the Disney outbreak.
he type of measles the woman died of “matched the outbreak in the local county here, but that outbreak strain was not a match for the Disney outbreak,” he said.
The MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine had completely eradicated the threat of measles from the US, however, with the rise of the anti-vaccine campaigners the virus seems to have made a return.
“This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunising as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles,” the department of health said.
“People with compromised immune systems often cannot be vaccinated against measles.”
Measles used to be life-threatening before the vaccine was invented. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, nearly twice as many children died from measles as from polio. A licensed vaccine to prevent measles first became available in 1963.
Before the widespread use of a vaccine against measles, its incidence was so high that infection with measles was felt to be “as inevitable as death and taxes.” Reported cases of measles in the United States fell from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands per year following introduction of the vaccine in 1963.
“The woman was most likely exposed to measles at a local medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County,” said the statement. “She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles.”
Officials said she did not manifest the usual hallmark symptoms of measles and hence the infection was not discovered until after her death, which occurred in the spring.
For most kids, the measles vaccine is part of the measles-mumps-rubella immunization (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella immunization (MMRV) given at 12 to 15 months of age and again at 4 to 6 years of age. Measles vaccine is not usually given to infants younger than 12 months old.