Preg­nant women warned to be care­ful re­gard­ing H1N1

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - BIANCA CAPAZORIO

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.

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