News & Current Affairs

July 19, 2009

Swine flu pregnancy tips reissued

Swine flu pregnancy tips reissued

A pregnant woman

A suppressed immune system makes pregnant women more vulnerable

The Department of Health has attempted to clarify its guidelines to expectant mothers and parents with children under five on how best to avoid swine flu.

Its advice to practise good hygiene by washing hands and surfaces regularly has been re-issued after a woman with the virus died soon after giving birth.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says all expectant mothers should avoid crowded places and unnecessary travel.

But the DoH says only the “particularly concerned” should consider the advice.

Concern over the effects of swine flu on new and expectant mothers has heightened since the death of Ruptara Miah, 39, in London’s Whipps Cross Hospital on 13 July. Her baby is said to be very ill in intensive care.

Good hygiene

Another child under six months old, who died in London, is also among the latest victims of the virus.

The refreshed DoH advice has been given greater prominence on its website.

Health experts say expectant mothers could suffer possible complications if they contract swine flu, such as pneumonia, breathing difficulties and dehydration, because they have suppressed immune systems. Young children are also vulnerable.

Most mothers-to-be with swine flu are being prescribed Relenza, an inhaled antiviral drug which treats the virus without reaching the foetus. However, where it is particularly severe, doctors can offer Tamiflu instead.

The NHS website stresses that most expectant mothers who contract swine flu will only have mild symptoms and recover within a week.

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said that while the risks for expectant mothers were low, women needed information to make an informed decision.

“If you are pregnant, you are slightly more susceptible to all infections. One of them is swine flu.

“It is important that pregnant women know that – and particularly other members of the population know that – so that they behave responsibly and if they are sick they don’t go and put themselves close to a pregnant woman.”

If you are pregnant, you are slightly more susceptible to all infections. One of them is swine flu
Belinda Phipps, NCT

The Department of Health said it advised women to plan their pregnancy carefully, but was not advising against trying to conceive.

“Mums-to-be are more vulnerable to any type of flu. It is particularly important that anyone who has existing health problems and is thinking about starting a family should talk to their GP first, as they normally would,” a DoH spokesman said.

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the RCM, said women could not be expected to wait for the first wave of the pandemic to end before trying for a baby.

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Alan Johnson, the new home secretary, said an unexpected aspect of the virus was that it was attacking the young, not the elderly as with seasonal flu.

He called on parents to keep using their common sense, saying the “vast majority” had been following public health advice.

Rates of flu-like illness

Twenty-nine people have now died in the UK after contracting swine flu – 26 in England and three in Scotland.

The government has warned that the number of deaths from the virus this winter in the UK could reach between 19,000 and 65,000.

However, during the 1999 to 2000 winter, seasonal flu deaths reached 21,000 and even during average winters there are normally anywhere between 6,000 to 8,000 deaths.

Swine flu public health poster

The National Flu Service will go live at the end of next week


We asked you whether you were concerned about the effects swine flu might have on expectant mothers. Here is a selection of your comments.

I am in the third trimester of pregnancy, and I am asthmatic. I am concerned that neither Tamiflu or Relenza will be suitable for me if I contract swine flu.
Louise, Nottingham

This is such stupid advice. I am pregnant and travel to work every day on a packed Tube. How am I supposed to avoid crowded places and unnecessary travel? It’s impossible. I can’t just stop going to work can I?
Laura, Hertfordshire

My daughter has a 4yr old son who has swine flu, she is 4 months pregnant and worried in case she catches it and it harms the baby, we are also worried about the treatments used in pregnant women. There is to much contradiction going around to know what to believe.
Tina, Essex

I am currently 24 weeks pregnant and have been ill and at home for 5 days now with bad cold symptoms. After consulting the doctor by phone I was told it could possibly be swine flu but how am I to know? I am usually very level headed in these situations but not sure that not swabbing pregnant women with symptoms is wise – at least if we know if we have it we can be better informed!
Anonymous, Wales

I am 36 weeks pregnant and came into contact with Swine flu last week. I experienced a slight sore throat spoke with a nurse at NHS direct and my GP and was completely reassured that I was fine and not displaying any symptoms. There is definitely some scaremongering going on but if you seek appropriate medical advice your fears can be eased.
Jo, Romford, Essex

I have got a 14 month old child and am currently pregnant. I’m very worried we could all catch the virus as a lot of people where we live are getting it. Also it is going round schools where my niece goes. I believe there should be vaccinations soon as possible for young children and those who it could endanger more than others
Nikki, Chelmsford, Essex

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August 5, 2008

Pietersen named England captain

Kevin Pietersen has succeeded Michael Vaughan as England cricket captain.

Courtesy BBC

Following Vaughan’s shock resignation on Sunday, the 28-year-old’s appointment was confirmed by national selector Geoff Miller at Lord’s.

Pietersen will captain both the Test and one-day sides and will lead England in the final Test against South Africa at The Oval on Thursday.

He said: “I’m very thrilled and excited to have been given the opportunity to captain England.”

The South Africa-born batsman, who becomes England’s 74th Test captain, had been widely tipped to take over from Vaughan and one-day captain Paul Collingwood, who also stood down on Sunday following England’s Test series defeat to South Africa.

Pietersen, who has played 40 Tests for England and burst onto the international stage in the famous Ashes win over Australia in 2005, added: “It’s a huge honour and a terrific challenge for me at this stage of my international career.

“I have learned a great deal about leadership from playing under both Michael and Paul and fully appreciate the level of responsibility that comes with the job of captaining your country.

“My immediate priority will be this week’s fourth npower Test and I will be devoting all my energies to ensuring that the team are properly prepared and play to their full potential, starting on Thursday.”

Pietersen has captained England before, in the recent final one-day match against New Zealand, which England lost.

Miller, together with selectors Ashley Giles and James Whittaker and England coach Peter Moores, sat down on Sunday to decide on Vaughan’s successor.

Other potential captains whose names were in the frame were Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Kent skipper Rob Key.

Miller said: “In choosing a new captain, we were keen to identify a player who could lead the team in all three forms of cricket and bring fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the role of captain.

“Kevin is a world-class player who will command the respect of the dressing room and I am sure he will be looking to lead from the front and work closely with both the players and the coaching staff to bring England success in the future.”

With Vaughan deciding not to play in the final Test, England have made one change to the squad with Essex’s Ravi Bopara replacing him.

England also announced the squad for five one-day internationals with all-rounder Andrew Flintoff returning in place of Hampshire’s Dimitri Mascarenhas.

Sussex wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior has earned a recall as a replacement for Tim Ambrose while uncapped Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel is included for the first time.

Pietersen started his tenure as England captain praising his predecessor Vaughan.

“What a great man he was as a skipper – They are huge boots to fill and I’ll try to give it the best possible go I can,” said the new captain.

“He was a great leader, he brought me into the side and I always tried to the best I could for a great man.”

Pietersen said he would look to the senior players for advice but wanted to stamp his own captaincy style on the national team and he did not believe his own form would suffer because of the extra burden.

“I will always respect what has happened in the past and I will always respect what Michael did and what my predecessors did,” he said.

“I will always look for advice because I’m new in this job and I’ve had calls and messages from the senior players in the squad.

“Once you have the support of the lads around you, you can’t ask for any more.

“But I’ll have my own ways and it’s very exciting. It’s a brand new test and a bright new challenge for me.”

There have been suggestions Pietersen has had a strained relationship with coach Moores but he insisted they would have no trouble working as a team.

“I don’t think I would be sitting here today if I wasn’t 100% confident that everything is going to be perfectly fine,” said Pietersen.

“Yesterday I sat down with Peter and we had a really good discussion on how we want to take this team forward.

“My position as a player to becoming captain is now totally different and we need to unite and get onto the same hymn sheet and we need to get this team going forward.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said that once the selectors had decided to appoint one captain for all forms of the international game, Pietersen was the logical choice.

“He was the only real candidate once the selectors decided there was only going to be one captain – that was the big decision,” said Agnew.

“From what I’m hearing (Kent captain) Rob Key was in second place, if you like. I’m not saying it was a close contest between Pietersen and Key at all, I don’t think it was.

“But because they wanted that starting point of a unified captain, Key was higher up the pecking order, I think, even than Andrew Strauss.”

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