A key component of the response to emerging infections is consideration of special populations, including pregnant women. Successful pregnancy depends on adaptation of the woman's immune system to tolerate a genetically foreign fetus. Although the immune system changes are not well understood, a shift from cell-mediated immunity toward humoral immunity is believed to occur. These immunologic changes may alter susceptibility to and severity of infectious diseases in pregnant women. For example, pregnancy may increase susceptibility to toxoplasmosis and listeriosis and may increase severity of illness and increase mortality rates from influenza and varicella. Compared with information about more conventional disease threats, information about emerging infectious diseases is quite limited. Pregnant women's altered response to infectious diseases should be considered when planning a response to emerging infectious disease threats.
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