H1N1 flu warning to pregnant women
Influenza in pregnant women significantly increases the risk of stillbirth or infant death shortly after birth, according to UK research which charities say “must not be ignored”.
Last year, the seasonal flu vaccination programme included pregnant women for the first time but uptake only reached 38%, compared with 72.8% for patients aged 65 and over, and 50.4% in clinically at-risk groups.
However, latest findings from a UK-wide study have prompted the neonatal charity Sands and the Royal College of Midwives to urge all pregnant women to be immunised against flu prior to winter.
The research, carried out by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, found a significant increase in the number of babies being stillborn or dying shortly after birth to mothers who were infected with the H1N1 swine flu virus.
Among 256 mothers infected with H1N1 between September 2009 and January 2010, seven of their babies were stillborn and three died shortly after birth. This equates to 39 babies in 1,000 dying before or shortly after birth, compared to seven in 1,000 in mothers not infected with the virus.
Sands research manger Janet Scott described the findings “alarming”.
RCM deputy general secretary Louise Silverton said the college had advised its members to encourage pregnant women to be vaccinated, as well as having the jab themselves.
This year’s seasonal flu vaccination campaign officially began on 1 October and is targeted at the same groups as in 2010-11. The vaccine also protests against the same strains as last season, including H1N1.