BOSTON (CBS) – On the heels of a measles case on Martha’s Vineyard last month, we now have the first measles death in the United States in over a decade. Dr. Mallika Marshall makes yet another plea for universal vaccination.
This spring, a woman in Washington State died from measles, the first reported measles death in the U.S. since 2003.
Some reports say the patient did have prior immunity to measles. However, she was being treated for a condition with drugs that suppressed her immune system, making her vulnerable to infection, even infections she was once protected against. These same drugs kept her from developing the typical measles rash, so the diagnosis wasn’t made until autopsy when she was found to have measles-related pneumonia.
The patient appears to have contracted measles after being exposed to someone in a healthcare facility, a good reminder of why it’s so important for all healthy Americans to get vaccinated.
“We vaccinate the healthy population,” says Dr. Cody Meissner, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center. “That not only protects the “vaccinee”, the person who gets vaccinated, but also protects the people who are around them because a vaccinated person is not going to transmit measles to a person who is susceptible.”
Patients who are susceptible include those with organ transplants, patients undergoing chemotherapy, pregnant women who are not immune, and babies and toddlers who are not fully vaccinated or are too young to get vaccinated.
Measles is one of the most contagious infectious diseases out there. In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of people who come into contact with a measles patient will develop measles unless they are immune.
In Massachusetts, about 95% of kindergartners received the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, but there are pockets in the state with lower vaccination rates, including on Martha’s Vineyard where a case of the measles was identified a few weeks ago.