Study reveals impact of 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic on children’s health

Following the so-called “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918/1919, Swiss women were more likely to be born with low birth weight or stillbirth, according to a new study by Kaspar Staub published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, from University of Zurich (Switzerland) and colleagues.

Deteriorating health status of newborns is a public health problem worldwide. Understanding the determinants that prevent normal fetal and infant growth and development is critical to improving the overall health of newborns. In the new study, the researchers analyzed data on mothers and newborns from the Bern Maternal and Children’s Hospital between 1880 and 1900 and between 1914 and 1922.

In general, there was a decrease in preterm birth and stillbirth rates between the first dataset and the second dataset. However, the study found that in 1918 and 1919, the years that coincided with the “Spanish flu”, the incidence of low birth weight increased significantly.

In addition, mothers who were highly exposed to pandemic influenza during pregnancy were also at increased risk of stillbirth depending on the date of pregnancy and the infection rate at the time. The data in the dataset on influenza infection during pregnancy were too imprecise to draw conclusions at the individual level.

The authors concluded that factors affecting neonatal health were multifactorial, but that there may have been some consistency between the two pandemics, with increased stillbirths and The pattern was similar for low birth weight.

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The authors add: “It is increasingly common for epidemics to negatively impact pregnancy outcomes. Our study is another example showing that the largest epidemics of the past century were associated with increased risks of stillbirth and low birthweight.” More Better prepare for future epidemics to mitigate their impact on maternal and newborn health,” they conclude.

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