Pregnant women have been urged to get vaccinated against flu by the Royal College of Midwives, following warnings that severe cases requiring hospital admission are on the increase.
Pregnant women are being routinely offered the seasonal flu jab for the first time this year, along with those aged over 65 and patients with a serious medical condition.
RCM deputy general secretary Louise Silverton said: “Pregnant women should not panic, but we do advise them to have the vaccine and practice good hand hygiene to prevent the spread of germs.
“The evidence suggests that the triple vaccine for flu is very safe for pregnant women and there is no evidence of this type of vaccine doing any harm at all during pregnancy.”
Influenza A H1N1 (2009) – virologically and epidemiologically similar to that seen during the swine flu pandemic – and B are the predominant circulating viruses with few, sporadic A (H3N2) viruses detected.
There have been reports of influenza hospitalisations and ICU admissions across the UK, with 22 H1N1 (2009) patients referred for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation as of 15 December, according to the Health Protection Agency.
All cases receiving ECMO have been adults under 65 years in age, four of whom were pregnant.
Overall 17 patients have died from influenza since the beginning of the current fu season in October, according to the latest weekly report from the HPA.