Autism Cases ‘Increasing’

Autism in children appears to be on the rise, according to US health officials who said the rate has risen 23 percent in two years, with one in 88 children affected.

Previous figures showed that as many as one in 110 US children had the disorder, leading autism research advocates to declare a new “national emergency” and an “epidemic” that needs urgent attention.

Officials admitted the rise may be due in part to improved identification of autism cases, particularly among children under three, but the extent of that influence on the overall number is unknown.

“There is the possibility that the increase in identification is entirely the result of better detection. We don’t know whether or not that is the case but it is a possibility,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Thomas Frieden.

“What we do know for certain is autism is common and needs to be effectively served,” he told reporters.

The data in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is nearly five times more common in boys than girls, with one in 54 boys identified as having some form of the disorder compared to one in 252 girls.

The disorder was previously believed to be more common in boys than girls by a factor of four to one.

The data comes from surveys completed in 2008 at 14 US sites, showing that 11.3 per 1,000 eight-year-old children have been identified as having an ASD.

That marks a 23-percent rise over the last data from two years earlier, and a 78-percent rise over the total number of cases presumed in 2002 when the accepted estimate was that one in 150 children had some form of autism.

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