Flu during pregnancy may be linked to autism risk

Mother with a crying baby
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LA CROSSE, Wis (WEAU)- Flu during pregnancy may be linked to autism risk according to a new danish study.

Having the flu during pregnancy was linked to a 50% increase in a woman’s chance of having a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder before the age of 3.

The study has come out just in time for flu season. Already our local hospitals are reporting cases of the virus this month.

Julie Schmidt is due in January wit her first child. She, like many other expectant mothers is taking extra precautions for her baby.

“I am terrified of germs right now. " said Schmidt.

She has gotten her flu shots in the past but has yet to get hers this season. A choice that could be a big risk according to Danish researchers.

The study analyzed data collected from 97,000 mothers of children born from 1997 through 2003. Children whose mothers reported influenza during pregnancy had twice the risk of being diagnosed with autism before the age of 3 and mothers who had the fever for more than seven days had threefold risk.

U.S. health officials and doctors stress to use caution with the new study, as it is still considered "exploratory."

“It was a good study a lot of women were enrolled I think it said 97 thousand but they’re also cautioning on how to interpret those results," said Gundersen Lutheran Obstetrician Gynecologist, Mary Kuffel.

The flu during pregnancy has been linked to other complications as well such as preterm labor and respiratory problems.

“Respiratory is the big one. Sometimes it is so severe that we need mechanical ventilation, needing a breathing tube," said Kuffel.

If you are pregnant and haven't gotten the flu shot, it is never too late to get one. Doctors say it is safe to get the vaccination no matter what trimester you are in.

“The vaccine will not cause the flu itself because we do not give an active virus to be able to cause an illness," explained Mayo Clinic Gynecologist, Gokhan Anil.

Anil says that only 25% of women are taking advantage of get their flu shot. The number has significantly dropped since the H1N1 scare.

“ We strongly suggest the flu shot to those who are or planning to get pregnant during the flu season," said Anil.

Doctors also stress that the husbands and other family members that are going to be around the baby once it is borne to also consider getting the flu shot.

Flu Clinic hours at Gundersen Lutheran:
Monday-Thursday 8:30 am - 6:00 pm
Friday, 8:30 am-4:00 pm