Flu Report: Autism and flu during pregnancy link - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Flu Report: Autism and flu during pregnancy link

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Autism is estimated to affect one out of every 88 children born in the US. Now a new study says that having a fever or the flu for a week during pregnancy doubles the chances of a child being born with the disease.

For years, doctors have been looking for links that will help them better understand why some children develop autism and others don't. So far there are many theories, but no concrete answers.

New evidence out this week, finds children whose mothers had the flu or a fever lasting more than a week while they were pregnant, may be at a higher risk of developing autism.

The Danish study looked ay nearly 97,000 children born between 1997 and 2003. Their mothers were screened to see if they had any infections, used antibiotics or had long periods of fever during their pregnancies.

Researchers found no association between autism and minor infections, such as respiratory ailments, or urinary and genital infections. But when it came to influenza during pregnancy, the risk of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder before the age of three was twice as high for those children. That's compared to toddlers whose mothers did not have the flu during their pregnancies.

The study also showed that if the mothers had a fever lasting more than a week while carrying a baby, that child had a three times greater risk of developing autism than other children.

Researchers also found mothers who took antibiotics during their pregnancy had a small risk of having children with autism.

Investigators say there may statistical shortcomings in their data, and more research needs to be done to better understand the connection.

Tonight on 27 News at 5, Julie Hitt from Home Health United will join us to talk about the study and what options expecting mothers have.

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