Flu shot doesn't cause influenza epidemic, health officials say

WASHINGTON — You can't get the flu from a flu shot. And public health officials aren't blaming the vaccine for causing this season's nasty epidemic.

Some "natural" health websites have misrepresented remarks of a Wisconsin county public health nurse, Anna Treague, who was trying to explain to a local newspaper why this year's influenza vaccine was not as effective as other years.

The websites — which falsely claim "influenza epidemic caused by vaccines itself, according to health officials" — said Treague "clearly states that the vaccination is at least part of the problem if not the whole problem."

She told The Associated Press that's she did not say the shot causes the outbreak. In fact, in the original article where Treague spoke to a local newspaper, she urged people to get flu shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention simply states "a flu shot cannot cause flu illness." That's because flu shots are made from killed viruses.

"The vaccine itself contains only purified parts of the virus; there is no live virus in the injectable vaccine, so it is impossible for the vaccine to cause the disease," said Vanderbilt University flu expert Dr. William Schaffner.

Federal health officials are working to understand better why this year's vaccine isn't as effective, but have never said the virus caused the disease.