Pregnant women warned to be careful regarding H1N1
AUTHORITIES are urging pregnant women to be extra cautious with their health, as nearly half of the H1N1 deaths in South Africa have been mothers-to-be.
This week, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said 20 deaths – nine of them pregnant women – had been recorded in this country.
Women in their third trimester of pregnancy were particularly vulnerable.
NICD spokeswoman Nombuso Shabalala said that in these women, the immune system’s ability to fight both seasonal and swine flu could be diminished.
“Also, in pregnant women the added complication is that it is a mechanical thing that affects their respiration.”
In such women, the foetus pushes up against the chest cavity, limiting lung capacity, which could exacerbate lung infections and other complications.
Shabalala said no deaths of pregnant women in the Western Cape had been confirmed.
This week, Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School teacher Jessica Dunne, 23, died of the virus in Pietermaritzburg. Doctors delivered her 29-week baby boy, Joshua, the day before her death.
In the Eastern Cape, two pregnant women had died of the dis- ease. One had been treated for TB.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi this week urged pregnant women showing flu-like symptoms to immediately request antivirals such as Tamiflu. He said time should not be wasted on awaiting test results.
Provincial Health Department spokeswoman Faiza Steyn said pregnant women were already a high-risk group, but those in their second and third trimester appeared to be at higher risk.
Steyn said women who visited clinics and maternal obstetrics units should follow the guidelines, such as washing their hands and staying away from sick people.
“We have heightened infection control mechanisms, like special hand wipes in the bathrooms, but we ask people to stick to the basics.
“Don’t go into crowded areas. When someone coughs, keep about 2 metres away from them. This is a pandemic – anyone could have it (H1N1),” she said.
A press release from Roche, the makers of Tamiflu, says pregnant women can use the drug. But the US Centres for Disease Control says data about the drug’s safety for pregnant women is limited, though it appears to be relatively safe.
A study published in the medical journal The Lancet last month indicates that pregnant women with the virus are four times more likely to be hospitalised than the general population.
It is not known whether these women are more susceptible to the virus, but they do show a higher risk for complications, the study found.
Shabalala said: ”Reports of viremia with seasonal influenza infection are rare, which suggests the risk of the virus crossing into breast milk is probably rare.
“Sick women whose milk can be expressed by a healthy family member for bottle feeding should be encouraged to do so.”
This week, South Africa had 5 118 confirmed cases of swine flu and 20 deaths. The Western Cape had 1 097 confirmed cases and four NICD-confirmed deaths.