SEATTLE -- A Washington woman died of measles in the spring -- the first measles death in the United States since 2003 and the first in the state since 1990, health officials said yesterday.

The woman lacked some of measles' common symptoms, such as a rash, so the infection was not discovered until an autopsy, state Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer said.

It was the 11th case of measles in Washington, and the sixth in Clallam County, this year, Moyer said.

Measles is highly contagious and spreads when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. Dying of it is extremely rare, however, Moyer said.

Officials noted that the woman had a compromised immune system. They withheld her age to protect her identity but said she was not elderly.

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The woman was hospitalized for several health conditions in the spring at a facility in Clallam County, on the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula.

She was there at the same time as a person who developed a rash later and was contagious for measles, Moyer said. That's when the woman was most likely to have been exposed. -- AP