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Pregnant women are at special risk and should get flu shot

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  • Pregnant women are at special risk and should get flu shot

    Flu season is here and while it is important for everyone to have a flu shot, it is especially important for those at high risk — the elderly, people with chronic illness and children age 6 months to 5 years. One high-risk group that is often overlooked is pregnant women.

    Expectant mothers must take many precautions to ensure delivery of a healthy baby, but many pregnant women are unaware that pregnancy places them at high risk for suffering complications from the flu.

    Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women get a flu shot.

    Getting a flu shot any time during pregnancy is safe. The only exception is for pregnant women who are allergic to eggs, since egg products are used to make the vaccine.

    However, a new poll commissioned by the non-profit National Women's Health Resource Center found that only 25 percent were aware of these recommendations and only 20 percent agreed to getting a flu shot while pregnant.

    The latest data from a CDC health survey show that less than 14 percent of pregnant women ages 18-44 actually got a flu shot during the 2006-07 flu season.

    Influenza is a common and contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. According to the CDC, each year 5 percent to 10 percent of the population gets the flu. Annually, an average of 36,000 die from the flu and about 200,000 are hospitalized.

    Flu symptoms include high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Some sufferers have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

    Influenza viruses are spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes or speaks. The viruses spread into the air, and other people inhale them.

    Flu can also be spread when a person touches a surface that has viruses on it, such as a door handle, and then touches his or her nose, eyes or mouth. Adults with the flu can infect others even before symptoms appear, and they remain contagious for up to five days after getting sick.

    Pregnant women are considered a high-risk group, which means that they are particularly vulnerable to the complications of influenza, mainly pneumonia and dehydration. Both often require hospitalization.

    Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized from complications of the flu than are non-pregnant women of the same age. This vulnerability is probably due to normal changes that pregnancy brings to women's hearts, lungs and immune systems.

    It is not possible to get the flu from the vaccine shot, because it does not contain a live virus. The nasal mist vaccine does, so pregnant women should avoid it.

    A pregnant woman who gets a flu shot also passes protection on to her fetus. That lessens the newborn's likelihood of contracting the flu during the first months of life, according to a study published in October in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Remember that being pregnant places you at greater risk for the flu's more serious complications, such as pneumonia and dehydration. Peak flu season is January, so it's not too late to get a flu shot for this year.

    Dr. Wendy Hansen is a physician with UK HealthCare Bluegrass High Risk Obstetrics and director of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

    "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation

  • #2
    Re: Pregnant women are at special risk and should get flu shot

    Adaptive immunity during pregnancy

    The cornerstone of the immune system is the recognition of "self" versus "non-self". Therefore, the mechanisms which protect the human fetus (which is considered "non-self") from attack by the immune system, are particularly interesting. Although no comprehensive explanation has emerged to explain this mysterious, and often repeated, lack of rejection, two classical reasons may explain how the fetus is tolerated. The first is that the fetus occupies a portion of the body protected by a non-immunological barrier, the uterus, which the immune system does not routinely patrol.[1] The second is that the fetus itself may promote local immunosuppression in the mother, perhaps by a process of active nutrient depletion.[1] A more modern explanation for this induction of tolerance is that specific glycoproteins expressed in the uterus during pregnancy suppress the uterine immune response (see eu-FEDS).
    ?The only security we have is our ability to adapt."


    • #3
      Re: Pregnant women are at special risk and should get flu shot

      Perhaps the title should read "Pregnant women are at special risk and should do all they can to avoid contact with flu sufferers"

      Everyone has their part to play in ensuring that our most vulnerable members of society are protected. Wash those hands and keep your bugs to yourself!
      ?The only security we have is our ability to adapt."