For Pregnant Women with Flu, This Rx Could Help

Pregnant women with flu treated early with oseltamivir had less severe illness

(RxWiki News) Women who get the flu during pregnancy are at risk for serious illness, and time is often of the essence when treating the problem. One treatment may be able to help.

In a new study, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that early treatment with the antiviral medication oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) could potentially shorten the length of hospital stays in pregnant women with severe flu.

Lead study author Sandra S. Chaves, MD, said in a press release, "Treating pregnant women who have influenza with antiviral drugs can have substantial benefit in terms of reducing length of stay in the hospital. The earlier you treat, the better chances you have to modify the course of the illness."

Dr. Chaves is a member of the CDC's influenza Division.

Pregnant women are more likely to develop serious complications and/or need to be hospitalized when they get the flu, according to the CDC. Respiratory failure and early delivery were among the most common complications reported in pregnant women during the 2009 influenza pandemic.

Past research has indicated that antiviral therapy is safe and helpful for pregnant women. This study looked specifically at women who were hospitalized for flu symptoms.

Dr. Chaves and team looked at 865 US women hospitalized with flu between 2010 and 2014. About 7 percent of these women had severe illness.

Women with severe flu who were treated with oseltamivir within two days of symptom onset stayed in the hospital about five fewer days than those who were not treated early, researchers found.

Women who were hospitalized for severe flu were less likely to have been vaccinated against flu. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months, including pregnant women.

In an editorial about this study, Alan Tita, MD, PhD, and William Andrews, PhD, MD, both of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, wrote, "Overall, considering the accumulating evidence of fetal benefit and safety, influenza vaccination of pregnant and postpartum women should be a public health priority in accordance with national recommendations. Prompt initiation of antiviral therapy if infection occurs, preferably within two days of suspected or confirmed influenza infection, is encouraged."

This study was published Feb. 4 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
February 4, 2016