July 31, 2009
H1N1 Flu: Potential Pregnancy Problem
H1N1, the flu previously known as swine, is still in the news, but this week for a good reason.
Most of us still have little to worry about. The CDC estimates that over a million Americans have been sick with H1N1 flu as of July 24. The vast majority of illnesses were mild and resolved without incident, many without any treatment. As of that same date there have been 5,011 hospitalizations and 302 deaths. That means that getting sick with H1N1 flu caries half a percent chance of hospitalization and a probability of death that is 3 percent of 1 percent.
But there is a special population that may be at increased risk: pregnant women. This week Lancet published a paper studying the statistics from the U.S. on pregnant women with H1N1 flu. The numbers were much more worrisome than those for the general population. Of 34 confirmed or probable H1N1 flu cases in pregnant women, 11 (32%) were hospitalized and six (about 18%) died. All the pregnant women who died were healthy prior to developing the flu.
Pregnant women should therefore seek medical attention immediately if they develop flu symptoms. They should receive treatment with antiviral medicines (Tamiflu or Relenza) as early as possible.
Pregnant women will also be a high-priority target group for the H1N1 vaccine, but vaccine availability is at least 3 months away. I’ll have more to say about the H1N1 vaccine before then.
Lancet article: H1N1 2009 influenza virus infection during pregnancy in the USA
Wall Street Journal article: CDC: Pregnant Women With Flu Symptoms Should Receive Anti-Viral Drugs
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