TAMPA — A 22-year-old pregnant woman died Thursday after becoming ill with swine flu, according to the Hillsborough County Health Department.
The baby was delivered and is at a local hospital, said Health Department spokesman Steve Huard. He did not release further details of the case, citing federal patient confidentiality laws.
National health experts say pregnant women are more vulnerable than most people to severe complications from the swine flu virus, formally know as H1N1, which emerged in the spring. A higher proportion of pregnant flu victims have been hospitalized, some of whom have died, preliminary studies indicate.
Pregnant women recently were declared a high-priority group to receive the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available in the fall.
The woman who died Thursday did not appear to have other underlying medical conditions that would increase her vulnerability to swine flu, Huard said.
The case appears to mark the first swine-flu-related death of a pregnant woman in the region. It is the sixth confirmed death in Hillsborough linked to the virus.
Florida has had 59 deaths involving laboratory confirmed H1N1, according to the latest figures released Wednesday. A South Florida infant died in July after being delivered prematurely while her mother, suffering from swine flu, was in a medically induced coma. The mother survived.
Changes in women's bodies during pregnancy make it harder for them to shake off both seasonal flu and the swine flu virus, which has become a global pandemic.
As pregnancy advances into the second and third trimesters, women's lung capacity decreases, making it tougher to tolerate a respiratory infection like influenza.
Pregnancy also affects the immune system, making it more difficult for a woman to fight the virus.
Letitia Stein can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3322. For more health news, visit www.tampabay.com/health.