Monday, February 25th, 2013
Women who received flu vaccines during the 2009 flu season, which was deemed a “pandemic” because of its severity, were more likely to have healthy pregnancies than those who didn’t get their flu shots, according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. More from The New York Times:
Typically flu vaccination rates among pregnant women have hovered between 13 to 18 percent nationally. But a push by health officials during the 2009 season drove vaccination rates for the H1N1 vaccine up to about 45 percent in the United States, where they have remained since.
Some expectant mothers have been reluctant to get a flu shot over concern about the health of the fetus, but the study showed that flu vaccination was not only safe but protective, said Dr. Saad Omer of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, the senior author of the study.
Dr. Omer and his colleagues looked at the electronic medical records of 3,327 pregnant women between April 2009 and April 2010. The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that the infants born to vaccinated mothers had a 37 percent lower likelihood of being premature, and they also weighed more at birth than babies born to unvaccinated women.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
The percentage of Americans who have received flu vaccines is roughly the same as it was last year, despite an early and intense beginning to the 2012-2013 flu season that had many rushing out to get vaccinated before they got infected. The New York Times has more:
There is a rush on now to get a flu vaccine, but figures published last month for this season — the latest available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — suggested that most people would again take their chances and go through the flu season without a vaccination.
The C.D.C. uses two sources to estimate what it calls “uptake”: the National Immunization Survey, which is a telephone survey of households with children, and the National Internet Flu Survey, which collects vaccination-related data by age, race and ethnicity.
The number, about the same as it was at the same time in 2011, was not encouraging. As of mid-November, only 36.5 percent of people older than 6 months had been vaccinated.
Pregnant women, children, and anyone with compromised immune systems are especially urged to get vaccinated.
Image: Flu shots, via Shutterstock
Friday, January 18th, 2013
During a dangerous flu season, health experts are emphasizing that the vaccine is safe–and important–for pregnant women. The Associated Press reports on a new Norwegian study that confirms the vaccine’s safety during pregnancy:
A large study offers reassuring news for pregnant women: It’s safe to get a flu shot.
The research found no evidence that the vaccine increases the risk of losing a fetus, and may prevent some deaths. Getting the flu while pregnant makes fetal death more likely, the Norwegian research showed.
The flu vaccine has long been considered safe for pregnant women and their fetuses. U.S. health officials began recommending flu shots for them more than five decades ago, following a higher death rate in pregnant women during a flu pandemic in the late 1950s.
But the study is perhaps the largest look at the safety and value of flu vaccination during pregnancy, experts say.
“This is the kind of information we need to provide our patients when discussing that flu vaccine is important for everyone, particularly for pregnant women,” said Dr. Geeta Swamy, a researcher who studies vaccines and pregnant women at Duke University Medical Center.
For more, read What Pregnant Women Need to Know About the Flu on Parents.com.
Image: Pregnant woman getting shot, via Shutterstock
Thursday, January 10th, 2013
This season’s outbreak of influenza, or flu, is raging across the country, taking kids out of school and parents out of work at levels that dwarf last year’s flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than half of the country’s states have reported widespread infection levels, flu has hospitalized more than 2,200 people across the country, and 18 children have died as a result of infection. It is not too late, CDC officials say, for people to get–and be protected by–the flu vaccine.
More from CNN:
Why so many cases?
Zich theorizes that one reason there are so many flu cases is that the heart of the flu season coincided with the December holiday season, meaning many people were already sleep-deprived from parties and were more likely to get sick.
Those who went to gatherings of family or friends may have already begun to feel sick, and spread the virus to others. People are generally contagious the day before symptoms start, and for five days after becoming sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last flu season was light, but this year has brought with it some “ominous signs,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.
Flu cases started going up early, toward the end of November and the beginning of December, he said.
“And it went up on a pretty steep trajectory,” he said. “The last time we saw that happen that way was the flu season of 2003 and 2004, which turned out to be a bad flu season.”
The type of flu that is going around is called H3N2, which is often linked to more serious disease compared to other flu varieties, Fauci said.
But there’s good news: That type of flu matches up well to the vaccine that is being distributed and given out throughout the United States.
People may get more complications from this particular strain of H3N2, “which may make them ill for a longer period of time,” Dr. Michael Jhung, medical epidemiologist in the influenza division at CDC, told CNN’s Mary Snow.
“But symptoms typically last up to seven days for a normal infection, a noncomplicated infection with influenza,” he said. “And we usually see that from year to year regardless of what strains are circulating.”
The CDC says it will release updated information on Friday. Meanwhile, it offers these tips to prevent the spread of seasonal flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Image: Flu-stricken woman, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released information saying that the seasonal flu has begun earlier than usual—and is expected to be severe, especially in the country’s south and southeast. More from NBC News:
“It looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad flu season,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The percentage of aching, feverish folks who went to the doctor with influenza-like illness had reached the national baseline of 2.2 percent, the earliest that has happened in the regular flu season in nearly a decade, the 2003-2004 season. Flu season may start as early as October, but typically peaks in January or later.
Five states reported high levels of flu activity—Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Widespread activity was reported in four states, regional activity was seen in seven states and 19 states reported local flu activity, CDC officials said. That was up from eight states that reported local flu activity the previous week.
By contrast, last year’s flu season started late, with an uptick in cases not starting until February.
Health officials are urging people to get their flu shots now, including babies older than six months, and all adults and children. Every year, about a quarter of the U.S. population gets the flu and an average of about 36,000 people die.
Image: Box of tissues, via Shutterstock