What's Going Around
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.
How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.
Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing) to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.
Flu Vaccination in Pregnancy
Health care providers of pregnant women play a vital role in advising patients on how to protect themselves and their developing babies against many threats, including influenza (flu).
Flu can be dangerous to pregnant women and their developing babies. A number of studies have shown that flu vaccination can protect pregnant women and their babies from flu. Because pregnant women are at high risk of serious flu complications, they are recommended for influenza vaccination during any trimester of their pregnancy. Millions of flu vaccines have been given for decades, including to pregnant women, with a good safety record. While there is a lot of evidence that flu vaccines can be given safely during pregnancy; these data are limited for the first trimester.
A Potential Safety Signal Associated with Flu Vaccination of Pregnant Women
A CDC-funded study found that women vaccinated early in pregnancy with a flu vaccine containing the pandemic H1N1 (H1N1pdm09) component and who also had been vaccinated the prior season with a H1N1pdm09-containing flu vaccine had an increased risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) in the 28 days after vaccination. While most miscarriages occurred in the first trimester, several occurred during the second trimester. The median gestational age at the time of miscarriage was 7 weeks. This study does not quantify the risk of miscarriage and does not prove that flu vaccine was the cause of the miscarriage. Earlier studies have not found a link between flu vaccination and miscarriage. There is an ongoing investigation to study this issue further among women who were pregnant and eligible to receive flu vaccine during the 2012-13 through 2014-15 flu seasons. Results are anticipated in late 2018 or 2019.
CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) are aware of these data, which were first presented to ACIP at a public meeting in June 2015. At this time, CDC and ACIP have not changed the recommendation for influenza vaccination of pregnant women. It is recommended that pregnant women get a flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy because flu poses a danger to pregnant women and a flu vaccine can prevent influenza in pregnant women.
As always, health care decisions should be part of an ongoing discussion between provider and patient. CDC recommends that any pregnant woman who has questions about vaccines talk to her health care provider. Providers should use their clinical judgement based on various factors including their patient’s health status, local influenza activity, and the benefits versus the potential risks from flu vaccination when deciding whether and/or when to immunize their patient against influenza.
Posted by: Christy Cauley