-- Alan Mozes
FRIDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- As flu season approaches, a
coalition of the nation's largest public health organizations are
highlighting the need for pregnant women to protect themselves and
their babies by getting immunized.
"Based on expert medical opinion, we urge all pregnant women, and women who expect to become pregnant, to get their influenza immunization because the flu poses a serious risk of illness and death during pregnancy," Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes, said in a news release from the organization.
"The flu vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective," she noted. "As an added bonus, during pregnancy, mothers pass on their immunity, protecting babies until they are old enough to receive their own vaccinations."
On a cautionary note, however, experts point out that pregnant
women should be sure to get the influenza shot, rather than the
nasal spray vaccine option. The shot is made with a killed version
of the virus, whereas the spray contains a weakened, but live,
That said, the current education campaign highlights the fact
that pregnancy increases the risk for sometimes fatal complications
associated with the flu virus, including bacterial pneumonia and
dehydration. Immune system changes that accompany pregnancy also
increase the risk that a bout with the flu will require
hospitalization, researchers have found.
Citing research presented in the April issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association, the March of Dimes news release noted that in the United States, pregnant women constituted 5 percent of all H1N1 fatalities in 2009 despite the fact that they made up just 1 percent of the American population.
Therefore, beyond getting vaccinated, pregnant women are advised
to take additional precautions. Frequent hand washing, the use of
hand sanitizers, and limiting exposure to children and sick people
are some of the ways pregnant women can limit their flu risk.
People in close contact with pregnant women and/or young
children should also be vaccinated, experts advise. And if and when
a pregnant woman develops flu-like symptoms, medical attention
should be sought immediately.
In its national effort to raise awareness of such
pregnancy-specific flu risks, the March of Dimes is joined by the
American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of
Pediatrics, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical
Association, the American Nurses Association, the American
Pharmacists Association, the Association of Women's Health,
Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, and the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC).
For his part, Dr. Pascal James Imperato, dean and distinguished
service professor of the School of Public Health at the State
University of New York Downstate Medical Center in New York City,
praises the effort to draw attention to the particular threat the
flu virus poses in pregnant women.
"We discovered in the last influenza season that many pregnant women were not aware of this need," he noted. "And also their obstetricians were not aware. And part of the reason is that pregnant women were not traditionally listed among the high-risk groups, such as people 65 and older, and individuals with any chronic debilitating health complication requiring ongoing health care," Imperato explained.
"Health care providers and those providing critical services -- such as firefighters and police -- were later added to the list, but it's only in the last couple of years that we added pregnant women," Imperato noted. "Because of the physiological changes that take place in their bodies that make [pregnant women] more vulnerable . . . it's very critical that they get immunized."
On another note, this year, adults seeking immunization will
need just one flu shot, as opposed to the two that the CDC
recommended last season.
The CDC pointed out that last year's concern over the H1N1 virus
necessitated one shot for that flu as well as a second shot
targeting the seasonal flu virus. This year, however, a single
vaccine has been developed to protect against three types of flu:
the H3N2 virus, the influenza B virus and the 2009 H1N1 virus.
For more on the flu shot, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.