14.55, 15 June 2009
Scientists have predicted for years that the world was due another influenza pandemic. The H1N1 avian influenza outbreak in Asia was the most recent suspect that, despite fears, never evolved into a form that could be easily transmittable from human to human.
Perhaps inured by headlines generated from such scares, the news that a new influenza strain – H1N1 – from Mexico could cause the next pandemic was greeted by many with a shrug of the shoulders.
However, the sharp rise in the number of cases in the UK in recent weeks and the declaration of a pandemic has caused us all to sit up and take notice. Now, the first death from the infection in the UK and in Europe was confirmed today in a 38-year-old woman, Jacqueline Fleming
, in Scotland.
The tragic news has added relevancy for midwives by the revelation that the woman had given birth a fortnight ago to a baby that was three months' premature.
Doctors have emphasised that her underlying medical condition exacerbated her illness, but the woman’s death is no doubt going to unnerve some pregnant women, and midwives will be called on to provide reassurances.
The RCM has produced guidance notes on swine influenza, these not only provide advice to impart to mothers, but what midwives can do to avoid infection.
As the World Health Organizations’s director-general Dr Margaret Chan
has pointed out, pregnant women are at increased risk of complications. But what midwives also need to stress now is that the vast majority of infected people are still only exhibiting relatively mild symptoms.
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