The other day immediately after a panel discussion for doctors on 2009 H1N1 flu [Swine flu] conducted by the local branch of Indian Medical Association [in which I was a panelist] a lady doctor came to me with a question.
She introduced herself and informed me that she is 4 month pregnant.
'Is it advisable for me to continue seeing patients?"
For a moment I was not sure what to answer. I had never seen a guideline asking pregnant health care workers to avoid seeing patients during this pandemic of 2009 H1N1.
But when you look at the scientific evidence there is obviously increased risk if a pregnant person get infected with 2009 H1N1 virus.
I answered like this.
"Obviously there is an increased in risk and if there is a possibility that you may have to examine many patients with flu symptoms it is better you avoid such a job.
Then she said she would take leave till her delivery.
Recently the CDC in USA has come out with statistics of pregnant women affected by the new H1N1 flu. It says of the 100 pregnant women who were admitted with severe illness due to 2009 H1N1 flu in USA, 28 died. This is a high rate of mortality. That’s why pregnant women are on the top of the list for eligible candidates for the new influenza vaccine.
In India, in my state of Kerala of the 14 persons who died till date due to H1N1 flu, 3 were pregnant. Statistics are similar in most other parts of the world.
Vaccines may not available for most of the pregnant women in third world countries this winter.
So what is the solution?
If possible avoid pregnancy this flu season.