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Fetal Flu-Related Death

January 21, 2014, 6:11 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Fetal Flu-Related Death
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

One of the latest flu-related deaths in South Dakota was an unborn child. The South Dakota Health Department is encouraging all pregnant women to get the flu shot.

Trucks and tractors are popular at Becky Janssen's house, but soon two-year-old Braxton might have to share his toys with a little brother or sister.  Janssen is 13 weeks pregnant.

"It's been a long road. I had some other issues and things like that. I actually have a genetic disorder that it's hard to keep a baby. We figured out the problem though," Janssen said.

To make sure her pregnancy is as healthy as possible, Janssen got a flu shot this season.

"If there's something I can do to prevent illnesses in my household, by all means, I'm going to do that," Janssen said.

The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in other women. That's because changes to a woman's immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make them more prone to severe illness from the flu. Women should not only get a flu shot to protect themselves, but also their unborn baby.

"It's not so much that the virus actually reaches the fetus, but the impact of the disease itself on the fetus is high," Sanford OB/GYN Dr. Anthony Sierra said.

Sierra says a high fever in early pregnancy from the flu can lead to birth defects. The flu can also impact the oxygen flow to the baby.

"That can lead to sometimes fetal death and sometimes pre-term deliveries," Sierra said.

After Janssen's baby is born, she won't be able to give him or her a flu shot until the baby is six months old, but her own shot will provide the baby some protection.

"If the mother is vaccinated, she will develop immunity that will pass to the baby," Sierra said.

That is why Janssen says one thing is more important than finding out whether she's having a boy or a girl.

"We're just hoping for a healthy baby," Janssen said.

Find more flu information online.

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