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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Influenza A(H1N1) in Pregnancy

This is a follow-up to my post yesterday. Since I've been feeling so paranoid over the last few hours due to this influenza A(H1N1) virus spreading over the country, I tried to search online for the possible effects on this on pregnant woman. Although according to news, most of the people who were tested positive on this virus have already recovered, I'm still not at peace considering the thought that I am a carrying a little life inside me. Plus, I have kids who wait for me everyday at home.

I simply don't want to be the carrier of this A(H1N1) virus to my family, so I'm registering today for the flu vaccine that our company is offering. I asked our company nurse if the vaccine is safe for pregnant women, and she said yes. Anyway, here is what I researched so far about influenza A(H1N1) in pregnancy. Let me share this to all expectant moms like me, and of course to those who know one.

What is Influenza A(H1N1)?

Influenza A(H1N1) is a new flu virus infecting people that was first detected in April 2009. It is spread from person-to-person, is very contagious, and has sparked a worldwide pandemic alert issued by the World Health Organization.

Why has it been called swine flu?

It was first referred to as swine flu because initially thought to be entirely similar to the virus affecting pigs. Further studies reveal that H1N1 flu is the result of transformations in the swine flu virus with elements of viruses from birds and humans.

What are the symptoms of H1N1 flu?

H1N1 flu has different effects in different people. Some people who catch the virus only have mild symptoms. But others can develop complications and, in extreme cases, H1N1 flu can cause death.

The symptoms of swine flu are very similar to regular flu symptoms:

• fever
• tiredness
• cough
• headache
• muscles and joint pain.

Swine flu can also cause:

• acute abdominal pain
• diarrhea
• vomiting

A fever caused by H1N1 flu can be very high: if you have regular flu your fever is unlikely to go above 39 degrees C (102.2 degrees F). If you have swine flu it could reach 39 degrees C and higher.

The U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention shares a list of symptoms that require urgent medical attention. If you spot any of these, contact your doctor immediately:

• difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• sudden dizziness
• confusion
• severe or persistent vomiting
• flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever

How does H1N1 flu spread?

H1N1 flu spreads from person to person in the same way as other flu viruses: through coughing and sneezing of people who are infected. Swine flu is very contagious and spreads easily, particularly in enclosed spaces where there is close contact between infected people and healthy people.

H1N1 flu viruses are not spread from eating or preparing pork.

I'm pregnant. Am I more at risk of catching H1N1 flu?

If you're pregnant, your immunity to infection is slightly lowered to stop your body rejecting your unborn baby. So it's particularly important that you take sensible precautions to protect yourself.

Can H1N1 flu affect my developing baby?

We know that with regular seasonal flu, your baby is well protected against the virus within your womb. H1N1 flu is a new strain of flu so we don't yet know everything about it, including whether or not it will cross the placenta.

What should I do if I or somebody in my family shows symptoms of H1N1 flu?

Call your doctor immediately and explain what's happening. Tell her that you are pregnant and whether you or anyone else in your house has any other health problems. H1N1 flu can be more severe in people with compromised immune systems. If you have recently been to Mexico or the USA, make sure you mention it. Because the virus is very contagious, your doctor will tell you whether you should go to the hospital or if you should stay at home.

You may be asked to go to the hospital to have a sample taken from your respiratory system. This will be analyzed in order to find out if your symptoms are caused by H1N1 flu.

Is there any treatment for H1N1 flu?

There is no cure for H1N1 flu but antiviral drugs will relieve the symptoms and help you to recover faster. They will also reduce the likelihood of you developing complications. Currently, antiviral drugs can be prescribed for children over the age of one. Research has not yet proven that they are safe for younger babies, or for pregnant women, but it's possible that your doctor will still prescribe them. "If a pandemic occurs it is highly likely that babies will receive antivirals as the benefit is likely to outweigh any risk," says BabyCentre UK's GP, Morag Martindale. "This will also probably be the case for pregnant women."

According to Dra. Kho, BabyCenter Philippines' obstetrician, "A pregnant woman who gets infected with H1N1 flu will benefit from treatment with antiviral drugs, especially since very minimal amounts of the drug will actually cross the placenta." She adds, "At present, there are no known risks to the developing fetus being exposed to the antiviral drugs."

The Department of Health explicitly says that pregnant women and young children should not resort to self-medication and should immediately consult with a health provider. Similarly, those who experience influenza symptoms coupled with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, immunodeficiencies should also not self-medicate.

What can I do to avoid H1N1 flu?

Just as with regular flu, there are some things you can do to avoid infection and minimize the spread of the disease:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when you cough and sneeze and throw it away after using it.

• If you don't have a tissue to hand, cover your mouth with the inner part of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. This will avoid spreading the infection to your hand and will minimize spreading the disease.

• After coughing and sneezing, wash your hands with warm water and soap. Rub both sides of your soapy hands for at least for 15 seconds and rinse with lots of water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitisers.

• Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth because the germs spread very quickly.

• Wash your hands frequently –- the virus can live for up to two hours on surfaces like doorknobs and telephones.

• Eat a healthy diet including plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods –- a balance of these will give you minerals and antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C, which help to fight infections.

• Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and other social distancing measures.

How long will I be contagious if I have H1N1 flu?

People who have the H1N1 flu virus can be contagious for up to seven days after the onset of the illness. Children, especially younger ones, may be contagious for longer periods.

Is there a vaccine for H1N1 flu?

Not at the moment. Researchers are working on an effective vaccine for H1N1 flu but it will take several months to produce. The vaccine for other forms of flu will not protect you against H1N1 flu.

Info Source:


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