Swine flu warning issued to pregnant women

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Health officials are warning pregnant women to be extra careful in the midst of the current swine flu pandemic after three pregnant patients in New South Wales are in intensive care after contracting the novel H1N1 influenza virus.

Dr. Jeremy McAnulty from NSW Health says the outbreak may seem alarming, but is within the range of what was expected by health experts but expectant mothers are urged to take extra care and see a doctor immediately if they develop flu symptoms.

Apparently two other mothers with swine flu have given birth prematurely and one remains in intensive care.

Dr. McAnulty says there is a lack of immunity in the community to this particular strain of influenza which is why more people are affected - he says the outbreak is expected to continue throughout winter and is yet to peak.

Health experts advise those who are sick to stay at home, and carry out good hygiene practices particularly in public spaces - this involves washing hands regularly and discarding tissues in a bin after wiping or blowing the nose or sneezing.

As it now seems that it will be months before a vaccine becomes available such simple measures to protect against the virus are even more important.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the swine flu pandemic is "unstoppable" and immunisations would not be available for months.

Director General of WHO Dr. Margaret Chan has said despite media reports to the contrary, a vaccine would not be available for several months.

Dr. Chan says having a vaccine available is not the same as having a vaccine that has proven safe, and clinical trial data will not be available for another two to three months.

WHO director of vaccine research Marie-Paul Kieny had said that a swine flu vaccine should be available as early as September.

To date Australia is the worst-hit country in the Asia-Pacific region and in the midst of the southern hemisphere's traditional winter flu season, Australia cases have now topped 10,000 but experts warn that the real number could be much higher.

Australia with 10,387 confirmed swine flu cases now has more than 10% of the global total confirmed by the World Health Organization and Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the real number could be much higher, as mild cases are not being tested.

Ms Roxon says currently 123 people are hospitalised with swine flu and 58 of those are in intensive care - to date swine flu has been linked to the deaths of 20 Australians most of whom had underlying serious health issues - however there is some concern as in a few cases the disease has now started to severely affect otherwise healthy people.

The latest tally from the WHO says 94,512 cases of A(H1N1) influenza have been reported, causing 429 deaths.

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