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Swine flu: Pregnant women not getting Tamiflu

July 30, 2009 |  8:40 am

Pregnant women should be receiving the antiviral drug Tamiflu at the first sign of symptoms of influenza, but many physicians are delaying treatment because of long-held prejudices about using any drugs during pregnancy, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week in the medical journal Lancet.

Experts fear the same reluctance when the vaccine for the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus becomes available this fall. Historically, fewer than 15% of pregnant women are vaccinated for seasonal flu, despite the high risk of complications associated with infection. For the new virus, commonly known as swine flu, pregnant women are four times as likely as the general population to be hospitalized for a swine flu infection and they account for 6% of deaths, although they make up only 1% of the population. British and Swiss health authorities have even recommended that women avoid getting pregnant until after the pandemic is over. Because of that risk, the CDC recommended Wednesday that pregnant women be first in line for the new vaccine when it is available.

Experts argue that the small risks associated with either the drug or vaccination are far outweighed by the potential benefits to both the mother and child from treatment and vaccination.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II