Pregnant women in the Black Country are being urged by the local NHS to get a flu jab as a severer outbreak of flu is expected this winter.
Australia is currently in the grip of its worst flu outbreak on record. The global circulation of the virus means that the seriousness of this outbreak could be reflected in the UK over the winter months. In a country with around one-third of the population of the UK, Australia has already experienced more than 50 flu-related deaths and 1500 flu-related hospital admissions.
Flu can cause many complications during pregnancy, particularly in the later stages, such as premature births or low birth weights. In some cases, it can lead to stillbirth or even death in the first week of life. However, getting a free flu vaccination can help prevent difficulties and keep mother and baby safe.
During pregnancy a woman’s immune system is naturally lower to ensure that the pregnancy is successful. As a result, pregnant women are less able to fight off infections and therefore more likely to be seriously ill if they contract the flu virus.
Dr Nick Harding, Chair at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
“It is more important than ever for pregnant women to contact their GP practice and arrange to have a flu vaccination as soon as possible.
“The flu vaccination is the best protection against flu. It’s safe during any stage in pregnancy, from the first few weeks through to the woman’s due date and doesn’t carry any risks for mother or baby. Women who have had the flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives. Ask your midwife, GP or pharmacist about your free flu vaccination now. It’s free because you need it.”
For people in ‘at-risk’ groups, including over 65s, pregnant women and those with certain conditions, flu can have serious consequences, leading to existing health conditions getting worse or the development of an illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia. It is important for some young children to have the vaccination to prevent the spread of flu to at-risk family members.