Pregnant women have higher flu risk

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It is flu season and the bug is hitting Wisconsin hard.

Last week a UW-Madison doctor announced two pregnant women in the southern part of the state died after getting the flu -- and neither one had gotten a flu shot.

It has to do with changes to the immune system along with heart and respiratory system.

Meredith Ball does not mind her son picking the toys or books at the library. But she says her whole family is being extra careful doing things like washing their hands more often and getting vaccinations so none of them pick up the flu.

"Every year we make sure to do that with him and my husband and I, we want to be sure we are healthy," Ball said.

And that is especially important for her. She is 22 weeks pregnant, putting her in a high risk group of developing complications from the flu.

"Pregnant women specifically have that high risk because they can go through changes in their respiratory system and heart during their pregnancy," said Steve Gessert, a Marshfield Clinic Nurse Practitioner.

He says a flu vaccine not only helps protect mom-to-be, it also helps the baby, too.

"The flu vaccine actually protects not only the mother but the unborn child and then will protect the born child up to six months after birth," he added.

He says the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women during any trimester of their pregnancy.

"We are having increased calls all the time and calls coming in regularly," said Lieske Giese, the Director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

She says pregnant women should be especially careful since this year's strain, H1N1, is making younger people sicker.

"So people from their 20's to 50's who usually don't get as ill from influenza from H1N1 in fact do get very sick," she added.

News that always keeps Meredith and her family on their feet, hoping that books and toys are some of the only things they will pick up this winter.

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