TUESDAY, Feb. 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Early treatment with the antiviral drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) may shorten hospital stays for pregnant women with the flu, especially those who are severely ill, new research suggests.
Pregnant women are at increased risk for serious illness, complications and death from the flu, the study authors said.
The new study looked at 865 pregnant women in 14 states who were hospitalized with the flu between 2010 and 2014. Sixty-three were severely ill.
Among severely ill women, the median hospital stay was 2.2 days for those who began Tamiflu treatment within two days of developing flu symptoms, compared with 7.8 days for those who began treatment later, according to the study.
The findings were published online Feb. 3 in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Among those with less severe flu, those who began Tamiflu treatment early also had shorter hospital stays than those who began treatment later, but the difference was not as great, the researchers said in a journal news release.
"Treating pregnant women who have influenza with antiviral drugs can have substantial benefit in terms of reducing length of stay in the hospital," study senior author Dr. Sandra Chaves, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in the news release.
"The earlier you treat, the better chances you have to modify the course of the illness," she added.
Pregnant women suspected of having flu should be treated with antiviral drugs as soon as possible, without waiting for test results to confirm the illness, the CDC recommends.
The study also found that pregnant women hospitalized with severe flu were less likely than those with a milder illness to have received a flu shot, 14 percent versus 26 percent.
All pregnant women should receive flu vaccinations, and they can get them at any stage of pregnancy, the CDC says. Previous research has suggested that a flu shot during pregnancy not only protects the mother, but also her newborn during the first six months of life.
The study was supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the authors did not report any conflict of interest.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about pregnant women and the flu.