US records first measles death since 2003

US records first measles death since 2003
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A woman in Washington State has died from the measles, marking the nation’s first death from the disease in 12 years.

Doctors did not know the woman had the measles until her autopsy, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Her cause of death had previously been listed as pneumonia.

The woman, whose name was not released, likely contracted the disease in a hospital where another patient with measles was being treated, health officials said.

The last time an American died from the measles was in 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The woman's death is likely to revive debate over vaccination laws, which became an intense topic of discussion in Congress and state legislatures after a measles outbreak that began in Disneyland last December. 

While the U.S. officially eradicated the disease in 2000, a growing anti-vaccination wave has gained hold in some parts of the country. With a growing number of parents seeking personal or religious exemptions for their children from vaccines, public health officials warn that it could wipe out the country's previous progress in eliminating the disease.

Areas with lower vaccination rates, such as parts of California, Colorado and Oregon, have become vulnerable to preventable diseases like measles.

Five outbreaks have occurred so far in 2015, totaling nearly 200 cases. Last year, over 600 cases were reported — more than all of the cases since 2000 combined.

Several states, including California, have moved to tighten their vaccination laws as federal health officials press more states to act. California's law, which is among the strictest in the country, was signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown this week.