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Researchers call for pregnant women to get swine flu jab early

By Lilian Anekwe

Pregnant women should be given priority when a vaccine against swine flu becomes available, according to researchers whose study is published in The Lancet today.

The study found that pregnant women may be at increased risk for complications from infection by the H1N1 flu virus, and so the Department of Health should recommend that pregnant women are amongst the first in line to receive the vaccine, as well as given priority for antiviral drugs.

Pregnant women are more than four times more likely than the general population to be admitted to hospital, according to the analysis of US data recorded in the first month after the outbreak of the swine flu pandemic.

In the month between April 15 and May 18 2009, 34 cases of confirmed or probable swine flu were reported to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 13 states, and 11, or 32%, were admitted to hospital for complications including pneumonia and subsequent acute respiratory distress.

None of the women were given antiviral drugs within the first 48 hours of developing symptoms.

The researchers estimated rate of admission for swine flu amongst pregnant women during the first month of the outbreak was higher than in the general population, at 0.32 per 100,000 of the pregnant women, compared to 0.076 per 100,000 of the population at risk.

Little is known about the possible ill-effects of the drugs on the foetus but scientists say their benefits are likely to be greater than the risks and urged women not to be fearful of the safety of the vaccine.

Lead researcher Dr Denise Jamieson, a medical officer for the US Public Health Service, concluded in The Lancet: ‘On the basis of our investigation, pregnant women seem to be at increased risk for complications from pandemic H1N12 virus infection, with a higher estimated rate of hospital admission than in the general population.

‘Findings from the stuffy will be crucial to inform public health planning for pregnant women. Crucially, healthcare providers have to realise that pregnant women are at increased risk for severe disease and complications, and should start treatment promptly.'

Pregnant women should be given the swine flu vaccine first, research in The Lancet claims

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