The Associated Press
PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles woman whose 2015 death from measles was the first in the nation since 2003 has been identified as a 28-year-old woman who was studying to become a Border Patrol agent.
Death records say Catherine J. Montantes died of pneumonia caused by the measles, The Seattle Times reported.
Montantes, who had a rare inflammatory muscle disease called dermatomyositis, was a former dental hygienist and a college student studying criminal justice in hopes of becoming a Border Patrol officer, her family said.
People with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to lethal pneumonia, a common side effect of measles, said Dr. Manisha Patel, a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Atlanta.
“Immunocompromised hosts are complicated,” Patel said.
“Even if they’re vaccinated, they may be susceptible.”
Montantes’ infection wasn’t found until after an autopsy, according to Clallam County health officials.
She may have been exposed to the measles virus along with almost three dozen people at the Lower Elwha Health Clinic in late January 2015.
A 52-year-old man who visited the clinic was later confirmed as Clallam County’s first measles case in 20 years.
Montantes was at the clinic during the time period the man was there, but it is not known if that is where she was exposed to the virus, Chas DeBolt, senior epidemiologist with the state Department of Health, said in March.
Montantes did not have symptoms typical of measles such as a rash, but the virus was in a blood sample collected in February, county public health officials said.
On March 19, she got sick and went to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles.
She was then sent to the University of Washington Medical Center on March 26, where she died April 8.
Montantes was born in Juneau, Alaska, and was funny, strong and fiercely protective of her three siblings, according to family members.
Her mother, Ralphenia Knudson, said Montantes was “just a real go-getter.”
“Whatever Cathy sought to achieve, she would find ways to achieve it,” said Knudson, 53, who lives in Juneau.
Montantes was studying criminal justice and hoped to become a Border Patrol officer, her family said. She was also a dental hygienist and last practiced in Arkansas.
“I am in awe and amazed by everything that young lady survived and went through,” Knudson said. “Her strength that I saw was amazing.”
Of the 189 people infected with measles in the U.S. last year, 11 were in Washington state.
In 2014, 667 measles cases were reported nationally. Four people have reported measles infections in the nation this year.