Public Release: 

Influenza in pregnancy -- new Norwegian study

Norwegian Institute of Public Health

This spring, pregnant women in Bergen and Oslo will be invited to take part in the Norwegian Influenza Study (NorFlu). The aim is to find out how influenza in pregnancy affects maternal health and childhood development. NorFlu will also study any implications of vaccination during pregnancy.

In October, November and December 2009, a wave of swine influenza spread in Norway. Many young people and pregnant women became ill, but fortunately the epidemic was less serious than anticipated. Nevertheless, it is important to find out if the virus had any effect on pregnancies or foetuses. Therefore, NorFlu is recruiting approximately 4000 pregnant women in Bergen and Oslo. These women are now in their last trimester of pregnancy and were therefore potentially exposed to the virus late last year.

Influenza among pregnant women

Most pregnant women who contract influenza complete their pregnancy without any problems. Pregnant women who have swine influenza are at greater risk than others of developing complications such as pneumonia and respiratory failure. Serious complications could lead to miscarriage or premature birth. Therefore, the Norwegian health authorities recommended vaccination in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. This was the same advice given by WHO and health authorities in the majority of countries that offered the pandemic vaccine.

Questionnaire and blood sample

Participants in NorFlu will be asked to complete a questionnaire and give a blood sample. It is important that both women who have had influenza as well as those who have not been sick participate. Research will concentrate on influenza among pregnant women and the effects of vaccination and medicine use, but will also highlight how genetic disposition, exposure to infectious disease and other environmental factors can affect physical and mental health.

Only anonymised material will be made available to researchers. It will be impossible to identify participants in NorFlu when the results are published.

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Responsibility for the study

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health is responsible for NorFlu. The study is being carried out in collaboration with Haukeland University Hospital, Oslo University Hospital and Asker and Bærum Hospital. NorFlu has been approved by the Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics. Blood samples and information will only be used for research in conjunction with approval from the Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics.

The study is being financed by the Norwegian Department of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has received 7 million Norwegian kroner to establish the project.

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