The government has taken measures to prepare for a flu pandemic by stockpiling enough antiviral drugs to treat all pregnant women in the UK.
The Department of Health says it has procured 350,000 treatment courses of Relenza to cope with a “reasonable worst case scenario”, which would see 50% of the country’s pregnant women become ill in the event of a pandemic.
Plans were announced last year to double the stockpile of another antiviral drug, Tamiflu, but this is not suitable for pregnant women because it can easily pass across the placenta to the developing foetus.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said that Relenza is safe to use because it is inhaled, meaning less of it passes to the baby.
Maternity services are to be issued with a guide to help them prepare for a pandemic. It will call for a flexible approach in dealing with illness caused by the flu, and for plans to be in place to deal with any additional burden on the system.
Dr Lindsey Davies, the government’s national director of pandemic influenza preparedness, commented: “This guidance brings together all the information doctors, midwives and planners need to help pregnant women in a pandemic.
Copyright Press Association 2008