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Pregnant women and the flu shot

October 29, 2009 3:24:35 PM PDT
Infectious disease doctors are holding their annual meeting in Philadelphia this week and as expected a lot of their discussions and presentations have to do with flu viruses. One topic of interest concerns how long people are contagious.

It's good information to know because although this flu is mild in most adults and children, it can be deadly for a few.

Symptoms of H1N1 can appear suddenly and may include fever, headache, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and fatigue. And as many people already know, the illness is highly contagious.

It goes from one person to another, as the virus is spread by getting on a common surface or by going through the air from coughs or sneezes.

But it's the beginning of the fever that doctors are using to measure how long someone is contagious. In a new study from the Pennsylvania Department of Health of 19 children under age 9 who had had confirmed H1N1, researchers were able to determine that the virus could be passed on for up to seven days.

On average however, a child with H1N1 flu was contagious for five days from the time he first got fever.

In a few patients, the fever and illness will be gone, but the patient may still be contagious. So high-risk groups particularly need to take note.

The doctors also discussed a story about protection for pregnant women and newborn babies. Pregnant women have always been advised to take a seasonal flu vaccine in order to prevent a known risk of developing serious respiratory disease. Now, a new study from researchers at Yale finds that giving the flu vaccine to pregnant women can protect their new babies, as well and lower their risk of getting hospitalized because of a flu-related illness during the first six months.

When the researchers looked at babies who were hospitalized because of flu, they were able to analyze that the flu vaccine given to women during pregnancy is 85 percent effective in preventing hospitalization in their infants under 6 months.

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