February 9, 2011

Yellow Fever & Breast Feeding Moms

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Breastfeeding moms may want to postpone their next trip overseas or avoid getting the yellow fever vaccine. A new report found that lactating mothers could pass on a strain of yellow fever to their babies, through breast milk.

Yellow fever is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes. It typically occurs in tropical regions of Africa and in parts of South America. The yellow fever vaccine is a live-virus vaccine that has been used since the 1940s.

A new report showed a five-week old infant most likely contracted a vaccine strain of yellow fever virus from his mother. When the infant was less than two weeks old, his mother received a vaccination for yellow fever, before taking him to Venezuela. The infant did not receive vaccinations, but his breastfeeding continued.

 "The previously healthy five-week old infant male presented to the hospital with a two-day history of fever and irritability," the authors were quoted as saying. "The day before his admission, he had been noted to have focal seizures on alternating sides."

According to the report, the baby had no sign of insect bites, and hadn't been in contact with infected people. He was not exposed to any animals, had no history of herpes infections in family members and had not had any vaccinations prior to his symptoms. Yet when doctors tested his spinal cord, they found evidence of recent infection with the yellow fever virus.

"This probable case of yellow fever virus further supports the current recommendations for avoidance of yellow fever vaccination in lactating mothers of infants under nine months of age," the authors write. "While there may be situations in which the mother will have unavoidable and significant risk of yellow fever exposure, the risk to the infant due to maternal vaccination must be weighed against the risk of wild-type virus infection."

The author say traveling mothers should try to limit their risk of exposure, or postpone their trip entirely until their infant is no longer breastfeeding or is old enough to be vaccinated.