Autism on the Rise

Several stories appeared in the general press on a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that the rate of Autism is much higher than previously thought. The CDC report shows that the rate of Autism is now as high as 1 in 150 children. This is quite a rise when you consider that just two decades ago, the U.S. government estimated no more than one in 10,000 children had autism. One story appearing in the February 9, 2007 issue of USA Today, noted that this was the most complete study on this subject to date.

The CDC study looked at information from multiple states on 8 year old children who were diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This category of disorders includes several conditions including the diagnosis of "autism" itself. The USA Today article also brought up the controversy that suggests that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that was used in infant vaccines up until six years ago may be a major factor with this problem. The debate on the issue continues as some medical authorities still claim there is no connection between the rise in Autism and vaccinations.

Ann Brasher, vice president of the National Autism Association (NAA) noted in a February 10, 2007 interview in Medical News Today, that there has not been enough research on the cause of Autism. She commented, "This latest study underscores the need for this type of research to take top priority. Perhaps this time, the CDC's own numbers will finally drive the point home that this is an emergency and should be treated as such." Brasher continued, "The one in 150 children they counted need research that can help them recover and reach their full potential in life. Time is of the essence."

NAA board chair Claire Bothwell also commented, "This agency has yet to answer the question, 'Why are so many children sick?' If this were an epidemic of practically any other disease among the children of this country, they would have long since investigated how it could have happened and made earnest attempts to find treatments." She also noted, "After this latest study, the CDC cannot continue to sweep unpopular factors in this epidemic under the rug, including vaccines and thimerosal. The future of a sizeable portion of an entire generation of children is at risk. Without effective treatments, taxpayers will soon bear the burden of care, estimated at over $3 million per individual."