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The H1N1 flu, popularly known as the swine flu is a contagious disease with symptoms similar to ordinary flu. As the name indicates, it is a type of virus affecting pigs. This strain of flu was discovered in USA some time ago. It has been found that people who have been in close contact with pigs are infected by the virus. Thus, this virus can affect people too. It is highly contagious and spreads from one person to another. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared swine flu as a pandemic.
H1N1 and pregnancy
During pregnancy, the body’s defense mechanism against infections is lowered. Due to this, a pregnant woman becomes more susceptible to infections and illnesses, swine flu being one of them.
Apart from the threat of getting infected by swine flu easily, there is another major risk during pregnancy. Pregnant women are more prone to the many associated complications, like pneumonia, and even death. If you are soon going to be a mother, it is advised that you stay safe and take all the precautions to avoid getting infected from this deadly disease.
Symptoms of swine flu
Most of its symptoms bear similarity to influenza. People can show a combination of any of the following symptoms if they are infected:
A person may be infected with the H1N1 virus and still not have fever. Vomiting and diarrhea is also not a very common symptom. One can develop many complications on being affected that can even result in death.
How can you protect yourself?
It is necessary that you stay healthy during pregnancy to keep yourself and your baby healthy. Pregnant women have been categorized under the “high risk” category for swine flu by the researchers. Also, currently there is no effective vaccine to protect you from the H1N1 virus. So the best that you can do is protect yourself from getting infected.
Avoid public places, as there is a higher risk of catching infection from sick people in such locations. Use a hand sanitizer or soap to wash hands frequently. Do not touch your nose and mouth frequently as the virus spreads this way.
To build up your immune system, have lot of fruits and vegetables. A nutritious diet will provide the body with required mineral and vitamins, like vitamin C which is the key to keep the immunity system strong. Also, drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.
What is the risk to the baby?
Currently, the effect of swine flu on the unborn baby cannot be stated completely. It is possible that the virus infects the placenta. According to past records, a pandemic always has had higher rates of premature births, stillbirth and abortions amongst pregnant women. During first trimester, swine flu could cause neural defects in the baby due to the fever.
It is possible that a woman gets infected by the virus a few days before giving birth to the child. In such cases, the delivery should be carried on with special procedures to avoid getting the baby infected. The mother should avoid close contact with the infant and must be provided with antiviral medicine. Also, the baby should be taken care of by someone who is not sick.
The effect of swine flu and its prevention in babies is not well known; hence it is best to take all possible precautions. The mother should breastfeed her child only if she has recovered fully from the virus. She should take the antiviral 48 hours prior to breastfeeding and must wear a mask to cover her face while feeding the child. The risk of transmitting the virus through breastfeeding is considered rare.
What should an infected woman do?
If you show any signs of flu, contact your doctor immediately. The doctor will prescribe proper antiviral medications which are suitable. Currently, a vaccine is not available so it is best to not take any over-the-counter medications and consult the doctor right away.