Autism prevalence increases: 1 in 59 US children

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN) (INFORMATION GLEANED MOSTLY FROM THE CDC)

 

Autism prevalence increases: 1 in 59 US children

09 Autism research Duke

Story highlights

  • The CDC estimate is based on calculations on 11 communities across the nation
  • Disparity gaps between white children and both black and Hispanic children are closing

(CNN)One in 59 US children has autism, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new estimate is a prevalence rate of 1.7%, up from one in every 68 children (1.5%) in the 2016 report, which was based on data from 2012. The new figure was derived from 2014 estimates for 8-year-olds diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 11 communities across the nation.
The new estimate represents a 15% increase from two years prior and a 150% increase since 2000.
Autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disability, is characterized by problems with communication and social interaction with accompanying repetitive behavior patterns.
“Parents know their child best,” said Daisy Christensen, co-author of the new report and surveillance team lead in the developmental disabilities branch of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “We want to encourage parents to be aware of their child’s development, to be aware of the milestones that children achieve.”
By tracking milestones, parents can report any concerns to a health care provider, who will refer the child for a comprehensive development evaluation “so that any delays or impairments can be identified and that child can be connected with services,” Christensen said.

‘Diverse communities’

The CDC launched the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network in 2000 to collect data that would provide estimates of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. The agency laid the groundwork for the network in 1996, when it developed a methodology for estimating autism prevalence using information from children’s health and education records, Christensen said.
“So since 2000, we’ve funded between six and 14 sites to use the CDC established methodology to estimate the prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder in diverse communities throughout the US,” she said.
The new estimated rate of autism in the United States is based on data collected from 11 communities in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin. It is not nationally representative, Christensen noted.
“There were more than 300,000 children living in these communities — about 8% of all 8-year old children living in the US,” she said. “And these are diverse communities so that we can look at autism prevalence and characteristics in a number of different groups defined by race/ethnicity or by socioeconomic status.”
Though estimates of autism varied widely among the 11 communities, five reported similar estimates of up to 1.4%. The New Jersey community estimated the highest prevalence of autism, at 2.9%.
Overall, fewer than half of the children identified with autism had received their first diagnosis by the time they were 4 years old, the new CDC report finds. Concerns about development were noted in the health records of 85% of children with autism by age 3, but only 42% received a developmental evaluation by that age.
Some of the factors explaining variations across the network include “differences in policies that affect access to services, differences in how children are screened and evaluated and diagnosed in those communities; some sites are almost exclusively in urban areas, where you might expect to have more concentrated and more specialized services for evaluating and serving children with developmental disabilities,” Christensen said.

A broader definition of autism

Also, the definition of autism has changed through the decades. “Over the ’80s and ’90s, the diagnostic criteria expanded to include more children,” Christensen said, “so I think that’s definitely a possibility for the increase that we’ve seen.”
In the past, more than half of children identified with autism also had intellectual disability, and now it’s about a third, she said. “And that’s really consistent with identifying children who are perhaps at the milder end of the spectrum.”
The new government data can’t tell us exactly why the increase has occurred, Christensen said. “One of the main things we note this year is that the difference in prevalence between white and black children and between white and Hispanic children has decreased.”
In 2012, for example, the prevalence was about 20% higher in white children than in black children, and now it’s about 10% higher; it was 50% higher in white children compared with Hispanic children, and now it is 20% higher.
“We don’t have any biological reason to think that autism prevalence would vary by race/ethnicity,” Christensen said, so the large gaps from the past suggest that black and Hispanic children were less likely to be identified than white children. They also were not getting the necessary services to develop to their fullest potential.
In New Jersey, Minnesota and Maryland, there was no difference at all between black and white children.
Thomas Frazier, chief science officer for the advocacy organization Autism Speaks, said the new government report is “really important because it’s a significant increase. It’s a meaningful increase.”

The sooner, the better

Frazier agreed that diagnostic changes and increasing awareness have contributed to the increase in autism diagnoses. “For example, people who used to be only diagnosed with mental retardation or an intellectual disability are now also getting an autism diagnosis,” he said.
“We’re waiting longer to have kids, and older parents are more likely to have a child with autism, and premature babies are living at rates that they didn’t use to live at, so those babies are at risk for autism,” he said, adding that there are probably other unknown risk factors.
He noted that the male to female ratio decreased in the new report. “It was 4.5 boys for every girl, and now it’s 4 boys to every girl. The decrease in those disparity gaps is a good thing,” Frazier said. “We have data to suggest that the ratio is probably closer to 2- or 3-to-1 as opposed to 4-to-1.”
Ultimately, Frazier believes that more research is needed, “because without that, we aren’t going to understand why autism has increased so dramatically over the decades. We’ve also got to push on services, because look at the numbers.”
The necessary services include not only educational but adult transition services, he said: “We need to do more work to get kids identified earlier, we should be identifying kids closer to age 2.”
Though rates are going up, in some ways, it is actually “good news,” said Dr. Stuart Shapira, associate director for science and chief medical officer in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Communities are doing a better job of identifying children and connecting them to services.
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“The soonest that a child can get into services, the better the outcomes for the child and more likely to achieve their developmental potential,” he noted.
Shapira cited the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Earlyprogram, which offers “free resources for parents to monitor their child’s developmental milestones.” Last year, the CDC also produced the Milestone Tracker mobile app “for smartphones and tablets that parents can use to monitor their child’s development in fun and interactive ways.”

 

 

70 Yr Old Lady Makes Ricin Poison Test It On Nursing Home Residents

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

By Jamie Ducharme

10:03 AM EST

A Vermont retiree planning to “injure herself” tested the efficacy of homemade ricin poison on other residents of Shelburne’s Wake Robin retirement community, federal investigators said.

Betty Miller, 70, made the poison herself and sprinkled it in other residents’ food and beverages, apparently to see how it would work, the Burlington Free Press reports. Miller told health care providers about her scheme on Tuesday, and law enforcement was called.

Ricin is a poison derived from castor beans, which are used to make castor oil. (Miller apparently made her homemade version using castor beans on the retirement community’s property, according to the Free Press.) The poison invades the body’s cells, preventing them from creating the right proteins until they eventually die, according to the CDC. Ricin poisoning can be fatal.

No residents reported symptoms of ricin poisoning — which, when ingested, can include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, low blood pressure, seizures and organ failure, according to the CDC — although the Free Press reports that the Vermont Department of Health became aware of one person who may have been infected but was no longer ill.

“This was an isolated incident. The toxic substance was contained; no residents were evacuated. The affected apartment was closed off and thoroughly searched,” Wake Robin President and CEO Patrick McKee said in a statement. “We have received assurances from the VT Department of Health and the FBI that no one’s health is at risk. The resident of the apartment in question is now involved with the criminal justice system and will not be returning to Wake Robin.”

Miller appeared in court on Friday, the Free Press reports, where the judge made a reference to her “mental health history.”

She is currently in custody and will return to court on Wednesday. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

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San Diego: Hepatitis A Outbreak: At Least 421 Sickened And 16 Dead So Far

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EPOCH TIMES)

(Epoch Times is based in New York City and mainly focuses on China news)

 

At least 421 people have been sickened and 16 have been killed during an outbreak of Hepatitis A in San Diego as of Sept. 12, 2017.

Some 292 people of the 421 were hospitalized due to the illness, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency’s latest figures, released Tuesday.

“This is an outbreak of unprecedented proportion, and we have not seen an outbreak of this nature as relates to hepatitis A before,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health director, CNN reported.

Most of the infections—65 percent—are occurring among homeless people, those who use illegal drugs, or both. Another 23 percent of cases occurred in people who associate with homeless people, Wooten explained to the news network.

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“Basically, if an individual is infected with hepatitis A and they use the bathroom and don’t wash their hands, and then they can spread or contaminate the environment: door handles, ATMs or whatever they touch,” Wooten said.

Symptoms of the illness—which can be “mild to severe”—can include “fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine, and jaundice,” according to the World Health Organization.

Wooten was forced to declare a state of emergency in the county on Sept. 1.

“The local emergency was declared to increase and heighten awareness of the seriousness of the outbreak,” she said.

As NPR reported, San Diego officials started washing down sidewalks down with bleach to kill off the bug. The areas sprayed down with bleach are frequented by homeless people.

Mike Saag, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, told the broadcaster that San Diego’s bleaching approach is a reasonable one.

Geographic distribution of Hepatitis A prevalence — Red: High : prevalence higher than 8%; orange: Intermediate : between 2% and 7%; grey: Low : less than 2% (Wikipedia)

“If there’s a sanitation problem, then the thing to do is clean up the area, and bleach is probably the best disinfectant that we have for this type of viral infection,” he said.

Wooten, meanwhile, added that more than 21,000 people have been vaccinated.

According to the World Health Organization, the risks are higher where there is:

  • poor sanitation;
  • lack of safe water;
  • use of recreational drugs;
  • living in a household with an infected person;
  • being a sexual partner of someone with acute hepatitis A infection; and
  • travelling to areas of high endemicity without being immunized.

According to San Diego officials, here is how it’s transmitted:

  • Touching objects or eating food that someone with HAV infection handled.
  • Having sex with someone who has a HAV infection.

A Highly Contagious Dog Flu Has Hit Florida

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

A Highly Contagious Dog Flu Has Hit Florida. Here’s What to Know

May 31, 2017

An outbreak of the dog flu, which has sickened hundreds of canines across the country over the last two years, has hit Florida for the first time. The highly contagious virus recently infected at least a dozen dogs in the Sunshine State, the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine said Wednesday. While the virus strain is not usually fatal and is not known to be transferrable to humans, it can spread rapidly and cause debilitating complications.

“There’s always that concern that another large outcome could happen again,” said Michael San Filippo, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), referring to an outbreak of the dog flu in Chicago in 2015, when hundreds of illnesses were reported. “We don’t want people to panic because typically, from what we know, it’s usually mild, although it can progress and can lead to other infections and be serious. We want to catch these things as early as possible.”

Here’s what to know about the dog flu:

What is the dog flu?

Canine influenza, more commonly known as the dog flu, is a respiratory disease that is easily spread among dogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms are similar to what humans have when infected with the flu, including coughing, runny nose and fever. However, some dogs can suffer from life-threatening pneumonia. There are two different viruses, including the latest H3N2 virus, which was first detected in dogs in the U.S. in 2015. At the time, more than 1,000 illnesses were reported in Illinois, where it began, and several nearby states, according to the AVMA. At least six cases were fatal, the organization said. The affected states included Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alabama, California, Texas, New York, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana, according to Cornell’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center.

What happened in Florida?

At least 12 dogs were recently diagnosed with canine influenza after either attending two dog shows or being exposed to infected animals from the events, health officials said. The disease appears to have stemmed from a dog show in Perry, Ga. and another in Deland, Fla. — both of which took place late this month. All dogs being treated are in stable condition, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This is the first time H3N2 canine influenza has been found in the state, health officials said.

It’s unclear how many cases of canine influenza there currently are in the country, as statistics are generally tracked locally, not nationally, a ccording to Edward Dubovi, a v irology professor at Cornell’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center. The 2015 outbreak appeared to have ebbed by that October, said C olin Parrish, another virology professor at Cornell. But health officials in Chicago say the dog flu is still a problem in the area. The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, which did not provide recent statistics, urged pet owners in March to be “vigilant” and “take necessary action steps “ to prevent their dogs from contracting the virus.

How can dog flu be prevented?

Pet owners can discuss with a veterinarian whether their dogs should be vaccinated for the virus. Dogs are at the highest risk of contracting the virus at animal shelters, boarding kennels, grooming salons, canine daycare, dog parks and other locations where the animals are in close quarters.

Zika Virus Can Trigger Epilepsy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

Zika virus can trigger epilepsy

Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes can spread the Zika virus. An infected pregnant woman’s newborn can be affected and experience severe neurological birth defects.

CBS NEWS

Beyond its known links to birth defects and other problems, the Zika virus may also trigger cases of epilepsy in infants, warn experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among 48 babies from Brazil with probable congenital Zika infection, “50 percent reportedly had clinical seizures,” said Dr. Daniel Pastula, Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp and Rosemarie Kobau.

All three have studied Zika at the CDC, and co-wrote an essay on the Zika-epilepsy connection, published online April 17 in JAMA Neurology.

The Zika virus is transmitted via mosquito bites, and its most devastating effects occur when pregnant women are infected. In those cases, Zika can trigger severe neurological birth defects such as microcephaly, where infants are born with underdeveloped skulls and brains. Thousands of such cases have occurred in South America, most notably in Brazil.

And other pediatric defects and illnesses linked to Zika are emerging.

According to the CDC team, besides the group of 48 babies cited above, seven of another group of 13 Zika-exposed babies in Brazil were also diagnosed as having epilepsy.

The finding isn’t overly surprising since the types of brain abnormalities seen in Zika-affected newborns have been linked to seizures and epilepsy in the past, the team noted.

In a prior study, babies exposed to another common virus, called cytomegalovirus, had higher rates of epilepsy as well — and showed brain abnormalities that were similar to those associated with Zika.

All of this points to “the need to examine how and to what extent congenital Zika virus infection and resulting brain abnormalities are associated with seizures and/or epilepsy,” the CDC authors wrote.

Early diagnosis of affected babies is crucial, the researchers added, and may lessen “some adverse outcomes associated with developmental delay.”

Right now, parents and health care professionals may not be aware of the Zika-epilepsy link, the CDC researchers said, so cases “may be misdiagnosed or under-reported.”

The researchers believe that heightened awareness will be key to spotting cases of epilepsy linked to fetal exposure to Zika and helping babies.

In a statement, the CDC said that “better recognition, diagnosis, and reporting of seizures and epilepsy in infants and young children will help guide interventions to make sure families receive the right support and treatment.”