A case of severe pandemic flu may increase the risk of death during pregnancy, according to a new study. According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the nearly 350 women who suffered from severe pandemic flu in 2009, 75 died. More than 250 of the remaining women stayed in the intensive care unit of the hospital, but survived the illness. Doctors and researchers are adamant that pregnant women need to have a flu shot each and every year to prevent severe illness and death.

In 2004, less than 20-percent of pregnant women received the flu shot. This number dramatically increased to 50-percent in 2009 when the H1N1 strain of flu took the world by storm. But, 50-percent of pregnant women is still not enough. Pregnant women are highly susceptible to the flu virus and many suffer severe symptoms that may lead to death if the flu shot is not taken every year.

As is the case with many diseases, some cases go unreported which makes it difficult for the Centers for Disease control to make a proper report, but the CDC is not letting flu cases slip through the cracks. The CDC continues to work closely with local and state health agencies to ensure proper reporting is taking place. With the CDC watching the condition closely and more accurate numbers being reported, doctors can use the information to strongly encourage more pregnant women to get a flu shot this winter.
Even though the majority of women hospitalized for the flu recovered, the fetus was affected in some cases. The flu may cause lower than average birth weight and lower than average birth weight can lead to complications and health problems for the infant at birth and later in life.

According to the report released by the CDC, about 50-percent of pregnant women with the most severe symptoms suffered from other medical conditions. Obstetricians should watch pregnant women with underlying medical problems very closely and strongly encourage these women to receive a flu shot. Underlying conditions that may increase the severity of flu symptoms include diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and kidney disease. Age and ethnicity did not seem to play a factor in severity of flu symptoms of risk of death.

Source: Kimberly Newsome, MPH, Jennifer Williams, MSN, Shannon Way, MPH, Margaret Honein, PhD, Holly Hill, MD, Sonja Rasmussen, MD, Anne F McIntyre, PhD, Lyn Finelli, DrPH, Denise Jamieson, MD, William Callaghan, MD, Marianne Zotti, DrPH and Kimberly Newsome. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 9 September, 2011.