Pregnant women not getting flu vaccines, leading to rise in hospitalizations, doctors say

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Thursday, February 27, 2020
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Pregnant women and the Flu

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some doctors said they fear moms-to-be aren't getting their flu shots, which could have consequences for their babies.

Dr. Bassam Rimawi, a physician at WakeMed, said in the last month and a half, between six and eight pregnant women have been hospitalized with the flu.

Rimawi said the flu shot is safe for expectant mothers during any trimester, and the shot could prevent serious complications, such as decreased oxygen levels.

"That causes them to start contracting," Rimawi said. "That causes them to go into early labor, and that causes issues for the baby. Not only can it increase the death rate for the mom, but it can increase the death rate for the baby as well."

Rimawi said pregnant women should contact their doctors immediately if they feel sick. He also said expectant mothers can take flu medication such as tamaflu.

"As soon as you feel the symptoms coming on, the earlier you start the medication, the less you're going to have complications of having worse problems," Rimawi said.

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The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 15 new flu deaths statewide last week.

According to data from the health department, hospital officials reported nearly 1,000 flu cases out of 4,000 tested patients.

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In North Carolina, 115 people have died from the flu since October 2019, the majority of whom are people older than 65. Three children, including one child under 4 years old, have died from the flu this year.

Three children have died from the flu in North Carolina this year.

The data was released among increasing fears about the novel coronavirus outbreak. As of Thursday, no cases of coronavirus have been reported in North Carolina.

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Rimawi said doctors don't know how coronavirus affects expectant mothers or their babies.

"We can't tell whether or not it crosses the placenta," Rimawi said. "Hopefully with time we'll know that."

Rimawi advised moms who want to take a 'babymoon' before they give birth should avoid traveling to areas where they could be at higher risk for infections.

"Don't go there," Rimawi said. "Better safe for you and your baby and the outcome of your pregnancy."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get a flu shot every year. To prevent the spread of germs, the CDC recommended avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home from work or school, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and washing your hands often.