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Flu, Flu Vaccines During Pregnancy Do Not Result To Autism In Children, Study Reveals

Update Date: Nov 30, 2016 09:40 AM EST
Flu vaccine
A nurse holds a syringe filled with flu vaccine during a drive-thru flu shot clinic at Doctors Medical Center on November 6, 2014 in San Pablo, California. (Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Having the flu or flu vaccine during pregnancy is not directly linked to Autism in children. Pregnant women are still advised to have a flu vaccine to reduce the risk of birth defects among babies.

A study that scrutinized and collated the medical records of 196,929 children in the Kaiser Permanent facilities in Northern California has yielded no direct link or strong evidence to support an old theory linking flu or flu vaccines to the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The study looked at the records from 2000 to 2010 of children aged 2 to 15-year-olds. The findings, which were published in JAMA Pediatrics revealed that only 1.6 percent or 3,101 children have ASD.

Out of the small figure, only 1 percent contracted the flu while pregnant and 23 percent received the flu shot. This alone reveals that there is no correlation between flu or flu vaccines and autism. However, the data also shows that there may be a slight increase in the incidence of autism in children when pregnant mothers received a flu shot during the first trimester of the pregnancy, but this could only be coincidental, Reuters reported.

Nonetheless, Lisa Croen, senior author of Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, maintains that there is no foolproof evidence to link autism and flu, possibly because the test subjects comprise a small population with several working hypotheses to prove. The theory of flu-causes-autism has been around since 1998 when a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield presented a study indicating that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

Wakefield's theory remains unsubstantiated and the doctor has been banned practicing in the United Kingdom. However, his claims outlive his notoriety and it is now affecting British society when it comes to choosing to have a flu shot especially when pregnant.

The Centers for Control Disease and Prevention (CDC) advises all pregnant women to get a flu shot for the alternative far outweighs the risk. Contracting the flu while pregnant, especially a virulent strain, are linked to premature labor and delivery as well as birth defects, Fox News reported.

Finally putting to rest that flu or the flu vaccines cause autism, doctors are now looking at maternal fever or serious viral infections during pregnancy as possible culprits. However, further studies are needed to corroborate this hypothesis.

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