Jessica Glenza, The Guardian
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 8 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.
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Montantes’s mother, Ralphenia Knudson, describes how the disease, often called “harmless” by anti-vaxxers, claimed her daughter’s life and upended her family.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Content Providers(s): CDC/Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald [Public domain]