Women with swine flu 13 times more likely to suffer critical illness if they are pregnant

March 18, 2010, British Medical Journal

Pregnant women in Australia and New Zealand who had swine flu were 13 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with a critical illness, according to research published in the British Medical Journal today.

The authors conclude that 11% of mothers and 12% of babies died as a result of being admitted to intensive care with . However they emphasise that given the small numbers included in their research, there are limits to the conclusions that can be drawn from the results.

It has already been established that pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing complications. The recent was the first "to occur in an era of modern obstetric and intensive care management", says the study.

The research describes what happened to pregnant women with swine flu who were admitted to intensive care units (ICU) in Australia and New Zealand during the winter of 2009.

The authors, led by Dr Ian Seppelt from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care (ANZIC) Influenza Investigators in collaboration with the Australasian Maternity Outcomes Surveillance System, assessed the data relating to all women with swine flu who were pregnant or who had given birth in the last 28 days and were admitted to an ICU in Australia or New Zealand between 1 June and 31 August 2009.

During the study period, 209 women of child-bearing age (15 to 44) were admitted to an ICU with confirmed swine flu. Sixty-four of these (30.6%) were either pregnant or had recently given birth, 57 were admitted to an ICU in Australia and 7 to an ICU in New Zealand.

The results show that women who were more than 20 weeks pregnant were 13 times more likely to be admitted to an ICU than non-pregnant women who had swine flu. Forty-four (68.7%) of the women had to be put on ventilators to assist with breathing and of these, nine women (14.1%) needed further assistance to help oxygen reach their heart and lungs.

Overall seven (11%) of the mothers and seven (12%) of the babies died and Dr Seppelt argues that "although a mortality of 11% seems low when compared to usual outcomes of respiratory failure in intensive care … a maternal morality of 11% is high when compared with any other obstetric condition."

The authors highlight the fact that none of the women in the study had been immunised against seasonal flu despite recommendations that pregnant women should be immunised.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Stephen Lapinsky from the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, applauds the ANZIC team for their foresight and planning in investigating how swine affected and those who recently gave birth.

He says the study "provides detailed data to enhance our understanding of maternal risk as well as the maternal and neonatal outcome".

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Building better tiny kidneys to test drugs and help people avoid dialysis

February 16, 2018
A free online kidney atlas built by USC researchers empowers stem cell scientists everywhere to generate more human-like tiny kidneys for testing new drugs and creating renal replacement therapies.

Expanding Hepatitis C testing to all adults is cost-effective and improves outcomes

February 16, 2018
According to a new study, screening all adults for hepatitis C (HCV) is a cost-effective way to improve clinical outcomes of HCV and identify more infected people compared to current recommendations. Using a simulation model, ...

Study suggests expanded range for emerging tick-borne disease

February 16, 2018
Human cases of Borrelia miyamotoi, a tick-borne infection with some similarities to Lyme disease, were discovered in the eastern United States less than a decade ago. Now new research led by the Yale School of Public Health ...

Flu shot only 36 percent effective, making bad year worse (Update)

February 15, 2018
The flu vaccine is doing a poor job protecting older Americans and others against the bug that's causing most illnesses.

IFN-mediated immunity to influenza A virus infection influenced by RIPK3 protein

February 15, 2018
Each year, influenza kills half a million people globally with the elderly and very young most often the victims. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 37 children have died in the United States ...

A new class of drug to treat herpes simplex virus-1 infection

February 14, 2018
For patients with the herpes simplex-1 virus (HSV-1), there are just a handful of drugs available to treat the painful condition that can affect the eyes, mouth and genitals.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.