Flu Lands Two Unvaccinated Pregnant Women in ICU

flu vaccination syringe

Two unvaccinated pregnant women in San Diego County were recently hospitalized in intensive care from complications from the flu, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

A 40-year-old woman had a 16-day hospitalization with influenza A, type unspecified, and a 30-year-old woman spent nine days in the hospital with influenza A (H1N1). Both were in their third trimesters of pregnancy when they became ill.

“Pregnant women are more likely to experience severe complications from influenza. That is why they’re one of the groups for which vaccination is extremely important,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women (and women up to two weeks after delivery) more susceptible to severe illness from the flu, which could require hospitalization.”

Wooten added that influenza could also be harmful for an unborn baby because fever is a typical symptom of influenza and could result in neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby.

“Getting a flu shot is the most important step a pregnant woman could take to protect her and her baby from influenza,” Wooten said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women get vaccinated during any trimester of their pregnancy, but not with the live attenuated influenza vaccine, also known as the nasal spray flu vaccine.

The County Health and Human Services Agency publishes the weekly Influenza Watch report, which tracks key flu indicators and summarizes influenza surveillance in the region. All other indicators are at expected levels for this time of year.

For the week ending Dec. 15, 2018, the Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 4 percent of all visits (compared to 3 percent the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 290 (compared to 199 the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 6 (compared to 5 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed cases to date: 940 (compared to 1,641 at this time last season)

 How to Prevent the Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. The vaccine is safe and effective. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop.

Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications from influenza. They include:

  • People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, even if symptoms are under control
  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live with or care for others who are at higher risk

In addition to getting vaccinated, people should also do the following to avoid getting sick:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often
  • Use hand sanitizers
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others

The flu vaccine is available at doctors’ offices, community clinics, and retail pharmacies. If you don’t have medical insurance, you can go to a County public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit or call 2-1-1.



José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact