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Washington woman dies of complications from measles

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It's the first US death from the virus in 12 years

This spring a woman in Washington died of complications from undetected measles, marking the first US death from the disease since 2003. The Washington State Department of Health confirmed the death Thursday in a statement, citing the official cause as "pneumonia due to measles."

Health officials believe the woman was exposed to the measles virus while staying at the Clallam County health facility, during a time when another patient also contracted the disease. The woman, whose name has not been released, had a number of other undisclosed medical conditions at the time and was taking medications that suppressed her immune system. She didn’t exhibit the typical symptoms of measles, and it wasn’t until an autopsy was conducted that the virus was found to have contributed to her death.

The woman was exposed to the virus while staying at the Clallam County health facility

Five people in Clallam County were diagnosed with measles earlier this year, but it’s not the only area seeing a surge in the preventable disease. In recent years, the US has seen a significant spike in measles cases, a problem many have attributed to a growing trend of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. Many parents believe that some vaccines lead to the development of autism in their kids — a link that has never been proven with science.

Yet herd immunity — when a large majority of the population is immune to a disease — is necessary in order to prevent the spread of measles. To enforce this protection, politicians are starting to crack down on anti-vaxxers. On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that bans personal or religious exemptions from school vaccination requirements.