DUBAI // A young woman has died of swine flu three weeks after doctors delivered her baby by caesarean section because of H1N1 virus complications. The Pakistani woman arrived at Dubai Hospital on August 8 suffering severe respiratory problems, a source within the hospital said yesterday. She was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. She was admitted to the intensive care unit and later sent to the labour ward so doctors could deliver her baby.
Officials said she was the second H1N1 fatality in the UAE; the first was a 63-year-old Indian man who died two weeks ago. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has repeatedly put pregnant women high on its list of those most at risk of suffering severe or fatal complications because of the virus. It is understood the woman had previously visited another hospital and was advised to take Tamiflu, the antiviral drug often used to treat the virus, but refused because she was concerned about its potential impact on her unborn baby.
"She came in very late and unfortunately she was very sick," the source said. "After delivering the baby, who is fine, we put her on a ventilator and had to heavily sedate her. Anyone who is in a high-risk group and has even the slightest symptom must come into a hospital. I would put pregnant women on the top of this list. This case shows why." The new mother was not able to see her baby before she died at the weekend. The sex of the baby has not been disclosed.
Data released this week by the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance provided more evidence that pregnancy is one of the most serious risk factors related to H1N1. The study found that 10 per cent of more than 500 patients who had died from the virus since the start of the outbreak were pregnant or had recently given birth. The WHO recently issued guidelines on the use of antivirals and the management of patients with the H1N1 virus.
The document said oseltamivir, the active ingredient in Tamiflu, could significantly reduce the risk of pneumonia, a leading cause of death in influenza cases. It advised that patients who had an underlying condition should be given the antiviral as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms, without waiting for test results. "As pregnant women are included among groups at increased risk," the guidelines said, "WHO recommends that pregnant women receive antiviral treatment as soon as possible after symptom onset."
The source at Dubai Hospital said the hospital had recently changed its policy on admitting suspected swine flu cases. "This lady had not been out the country or knowingly in contact with anyone with the virus. We no longer ask people about their travel history. It wastes time and it is too late - the virus is already here." The hospital receives about 50 suspected cases every day and 10 or 11 of these test positive, the source added.
"People in high-risk groups must listen to the message. As soon as you get symptoms, visit a hospital. You will be admitted and treated."