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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Death and Measles

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.

Catherine Montantes was a 28-year-old college student, training to become a border patrol agent, and recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder.

When she stepped into the Lower Elwha tribal health clinic in Port Angeles, Washington, she had no idea she arrived just an hour after a 52-year-old infected with measles. The virus is one of the most contagious and can live on infected surfaces for up to two hours.

Despite being vaccinated against measles, Montantes was killed less than three months later by the disease, because her immune system was suppressed by medication to control the autoimmune disorder dermatomyositis.

Her death, on 15 April 2015, became the last recorded death from measles in the United States. At the time, no one had perished from measles in 12 years. Now, as a record-setting measles outbreak spreads in 28 states, with the majority of cases in New York, her death shows how preventable diseases can devastate families far outside the communities which choose to delay or decline vaccines.