Vaccinations and Infections
Influenza (‘The Flu’)
Influenza, or the “flu” is a serious illness caused by the influenza virus. As there are multiple strains of this virus that change annually, it is necessary to have an influenza vaccination on an annual basis.
Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to influenza infection. It is a very serious illness that can cause severe pneumonia in the pregnant woman and, rarely, the loss of your unborn baby.
Influenza vaccination is:
• Recommended for every pregnant woman at all stages of pregnancy including the first trimester
• Essential if you have any other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney or lung disease
• Free for pregnant woman and available at your General Practitioner (GP)
• The best way you can protect yourself and your unborn baby against influenza
Important facts about influenza vaccination:
• The influenza vaccination does not give you influenza
• The influenza vaccination will protect you for 12 months
• An influenza vaccination during pregnancy will also protect your baby from influenza for the first six months of life.
Please disregard the myths and misconceptions that you may hear from friends, relatives or on the internet. Most of this advice regarding infuenza vaccination is simply incorrect.
If you have any questions about the vaccination please do not hesitate to ask me.
Toxoplasmosis is a rare but severe infection that can complicate pregnancy. It is transmitted by the handling of cat faeces.
Transmission can be prevented by simply avoiding the handling of cat litter. Gardening without gloves is also a risky practice to be avoided.
To avoid this risk, simply ensure you wash your hands thoroughly if you do happen to do either of these activities.
WHOOPING COUGH (PERTUSSIS)
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis and is spread by droplets from coughing and sneezing. Susceptible people are those who are either unvaccinated or have waning immunity since childhood vaccines. Whooping cough is particularly serious in infants under 12 months of age, while older children and adults usually have a milder disease.
Symptoms may vary for different ages but first symptoms are usually similar to a cold. Severe cases develop sudden attacks of repetitive coughing and often a characteristic ‘whoop’ as the person gasps for breath. Not all cases get the ‘whoop’. Babies may have pauses in breathing (apnoea). Vomiting often follows a coughing spasm. A person with whooping cough is infectious for up to three weeks after they start coughing. The cough may last for months.
Whooping cough has tragically resulted in he deaths of several babies in Victoria in recent years. Babies are at risk from birth as no pertussis protection is passed from mother to newborn infant. Complete immunisation of children and new parents remains the most effective measure to control whooping cough. Pertussis vaccination is offered as part of the government funded immunisation program for children at two, four, six months, at four years and in year 10 of secondary school (or 15 years of age).
People become immune either through pertussis immunisation or by catching the disease itself, but protection is not life long and begins to fade after 6-10 years. Sometimes immunised people still contract pertussis, but they are likely to have a less severe illness and may not have the typical whoop.
Adult pertussis booster vaccines (combined with diphtheria and tetanus) are recommended for all women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, regardless of when their last vaccine was administered, Addtionally, partners, family and anyone else who will have contact with your baby need to have a booster every ten years.
Boostrix® is the recommended vaccine and is provided free to parents of new babies. Whilst pertussis booster vaccine is strongly recommended for the other groups outlined, it is not funded. Boostrix® is completely safe when administered in pregnancy.