Researchers work on new flu vaccine

May 7, 2009 10:42:03 AM PDT
Here's something we haven't heard much about: What should pregnant women do? If they get the flu, is it safe to take the antiviral drugs like Tamiflu? Find out how some Houston scientists will be the first to test the new swine flu vaccine. The flu makes a pregnant woman sicker than others. So the CDC says pregnant women should not tough out the flu, especially not the swine flu.

"They're more likely to experience miscarriage and later in pregnancy -- they're more likely to have respiratory problems related to the flu and those respiratory problems are more likely to cause early labor," said UT obstetrician Dr. Pamela Berens.

The CDC says antiviral drugs are safe to take, and may save the baby. The flu's high fever is also dangerous, and can even lead to birth defects according to the CDC. Fever must be treated too.

"We do recommend that pregnant women get immunized for the flu when that vaccine is available," said Dr. Berens.

. A new swine flu vaccine will soon be tested in Houston at the Baylor Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit.

"We will be testing several vaccines simultaneously in the units and we will start with relatively small numbers of individuals in the clinical trials," said the director of Baylor Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit, Dr. Wendy Keitel.

The vaccine won't arrive until summer and will be given in two shots. The swine flu is predicted to die then flare up in the fall, about the same time that seasonal flu hits.

"Any flu vaccine that's available, take it," said Dr. Dupont.

They're planning two flu shots, one for swine flu and one for seasonal flu and Dr. Dupont says we're lucky this flu was not more aggressive.

"I think it was an overreaction thank God. Because we could have had a really major pandemic," said Dr. Dupont. "So taking precautions and doing it this way -- will pay off someday when we have a very virulent strain. We were lucky with this one."

This isn't the first attempt at a swine flu vaccine. One was created after a swine flu outbreak in 1976. It caused a devastating side effect, paralysis, in some people. Most did recover, but Baylor vaccine researchers will be watching for that very closely. They also say that vaccines are much safer today than they were 30 years ago.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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