Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are seeing an increase in critically ill flu patients.
Currently, three pediatric and seven adult flu patients are being treated in Vanderbilt’s intensive care units. Four of these patients are confirmed to be infected with the H1N1 flu strain while three others are suspected to be H1N1-positive. Eight of these patients remain on ventilator support. One H1N1-related death occurred at VUMC during February.
The month of March is here, yet doctors say it’s still not too late to receive the flu vaccine.
“Clearly this is a busy flu season,” says Kathryn Edwards, M.D., Sarah H. Sell Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program. “We’re seeing a potpourri of flu strains—H1N1 and influenza A and B. Fortunately, the strains that are circulating are ones included in the flu vaccine, so we certainly suggest people still get vaccinated.”
Edwards says Vanderbilt’s emergency departments have seen a significant increase in the number of pneumonia cases, many of which are associated with influenza. She says other flu complications are leading to hospitalization and respiratory distress.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women are six times more likely to die from influenza than the general population.
Marie Griffin, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Preventive Medicine and Medicine, says women are often not aware of the flu’s deadly risks and can be hesitant to get a flu shot for fear it may harm their babies.
“It is very safe to get the flu shot while pregnant, but risky to both mother and baby to get the flu while pregnant,” says Griffin. “Women who are pregnant are prone to more severe influenza-related complications, especially in the last half of pregnancy during the second and third trimesters.”
For the first time ever, the CDC is recommending everyone over 6 months of age receive the flu vaccine, which includes pregnant women and other high risk groups. This advice comes after research projects all over the world, including at Vanderbilt, have found the flu vaccine to be universally beneficial.
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