By Ed Payne and Elizabeth Landau
An Arkansas woman, who lost her baby last month after coming down with the H1N1 flu virus, has now lost her life.
Leslie Creekmore, 29, had been hospitalized for the last month. She was put on a ventilator January 13, before being rushed to a St. Louis hospital a day later.
Creekmore spontaneously miscarried on January 16. She was 20 weeks pregnant.
"She's gone now, and the universe itself is lesser for the loss," her husband Chris Creekmore said in a post to the Facebook group "Love for Leslie." "I loved her with every iota of my being and beyond, and I have no intention of that changing just because she isn't here with me corporeally."
On the advice of their doctor, the couple said they postponed getting a flu shot until after Creekmore's first trimester.
The couple did not know that his guidance was counter to federal health recommendations.
Creekmore had planned to get a flu shot at a clinic on January 13 -- the same day she was put on a ventilator.
Any pregnant woman should get a flu shot to protect against serious complications as soon as the yearly vaccine becomes available in her area, advises the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website flu.gov.
Women can receive the flu shot at any point during their pregnancies, regardless of trimester, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports the CDC recommendation that all women get vaccinated if they will be pregnant during the influenza season: "Vaccination early in the season and regardless of gestational age is optimal," ACOG says.
No harm has been demonstrated to pregnant women or their babies as a result of the vaccine, the CDC said.
The flu vaccine protects against many strains during the season from October to March. Pregnant women who receive the vaccine may still get the flu, but it would likely be a milder illness than otherwise, and severe consequences would be improbable, Gray-Swain said.
A national effort to prevent the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu has contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of pregnant women who receive flu vaccines, according to the CDC. Less than 15% of pregnant women received a flu shot before 2009; in the next two seasons, more than half of pregnant women got the vaccine protection.
The risks of not getting a flu shot
The flu may increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight, the CDC said.
"Pregnancy puts extra stress on your heart and lungs. Pregnancy can also affect your immune system. These factors increase the risk of becoming severely ill due to the flu," according to the CDC website.
Life-threatening developments like Creekmore's in flu patients are generally rare but not unheard of, Gray-Swain said.
"Pregnant women are five times more likely to end up in the ICU or have severe complications related to the flu than non-pregnant women who get infected with the flu," she said.
The flu vaccine that is safe for pregnant woman is in injectable form, and it does not contain the live virus, Gray-Swain said. The nasal spray versions should not be given to pregnant women. If you are pregnant, inform the health care staff administering the vaccine before you receive it.
Washing your hands after using the bathroom, touching public surfaces and other activities is also important, she said.
Pregnant women can also take a drug called Tamiflu. It is most commonly taken to reduce the length of symptoms, but it is also given to people with high-risk flu exposure as a prevention.
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