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Swine Flu and Pregnancy

A severe case of H1N1 in a pregnant woman in Washington state is helping to raise awareness, and concern, for other women who are pregant or nursing throughout the US.  In the extreme case of Katie Flyte, a 27-year old pregnant mother with a 2-year old, here H1N1 was not diagnosed until after six days and three other flu tests were administered.  Flyte developed pneumonia, a complication of H1N1, and her baby was delivered by C-section prematurely, after six months in utero.  Flyte had been in a drug-induced coma for several days before she died on August 11. She never met her daughter, who is still in the neonatal ICU.  Her husband, Kenny flyte, told The Early Show that "not one doctor threw up a red flag" or suspected the H1N1 virus.

Pregant women are six times more likely than the general population to contract H1N1.  Pregnancy suppresses a woman’s immune system.  The virus, also known as swine flu, attacks the lungs, which are already vulnerable in pregnant women, since the fetus and reproductive organs crowd the pulmonary organs making it difficult to breathe.  Any sort of lung infection further complicates respiratory problems.  Pregnant women with H1N1 are four times more likely to be hospitalized than other populations, and according to the CDC account for about 6% of all H1N1 related deaths.

Pregnant women experiencing any flu symptoms should strongly consider traditional flu remedies and not wait for H1N1 test results to begin treatment with drugs such as Tamiful or Relenza, the CDC recommends. Such treatment is most effective when started within two days of infection, however treatment can still be effective if adminstered later. Tylenol should be taken to reduce fever.  The CDC also advises that if you are pregnant and experience any of the following symptoms, seek immediate treatment:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • sudden dizziness
  • confusion
  • severe or persistent vomiting
  • decreased or no movement of your baby
  • a high fever that is not responding to Tylenol

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