Saturday, September 26, 2009

CDC quietly revises autism rates to 1% of US children

Recently the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reportedly revised the rates of autism for the United States and the numbers are alarming. In 2007, the reported numbers were 1 in 150. Today, those numbers have skyrocketed to 1 in 100, and some say the numbers are closer to 1 in 89. According to David Kirby, the data is due to be released any day now.

Corroboration of this number has been tough to find, with much circular logic, pointing to blog posts who point back to his blog. According to Lee Grossman, CEO for Autism Society of America, and quoted by Kirby, that number is correct.

When I tried to verify the numbers, the CDC still lists the 2007 statistics of 1 in 150 in their official report, the new report has not been released) but the numbers on the webpage have been modified to reflect "1 in 100 to 1 in 300 with an average of 1 in 150" for prevalence in autism. The last modification that was made to the page was September 25, 2009. When I checked the internet archives, for earlier cached versions of the page, it was odd that the data page was missing from the archive. But Google cache revealed the subtle refinement of the details. As of yesterday morning, the website was changed to reflect the new numbers. It is interesting that the modification occurred yesterday, Friday, the day traditionally known for burying news that the media doesn't publicize. I don't want to say there is a conspiracy, but why hide the data? Is the CDC trying to bury these numbers? Why isn't the media shouting this from the rooftops? Exactly how common does autism have to get in order to get the attention, research and funding for programs it needs?

According to the numbers David Kirby cites from a 2007 telephone interview of almost 82,000 children conducted by National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH), which is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services, your odds of being told you have a child with autism is a staggering 1 in 63. If that child is a boy, odds skyrocket to 1 in 38. That's 2.6% of all male children in the United States. Is this possible?

Further, the report goes on to state that parents told researchers that "60 per 10,000 children had autism at some point but not currently." My thought on this telephone survey is, were these children officially diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or is this parents who are finding quirky children and giving them the self-diagnosis du-jour? Of course, even accounting for that trend, the numbers are still incredibly high.

How much worse does it have to get? If 1 in 38 boys was born blind or with no legs, would we do something then? If 1 in 63 children was diagnosed with cancer, would we be moving heaven and earth to find out what is causing the epidemic? Would we be studying every avenue, leaving no stone unturned, simply on the word of a few? Or would we use all of science at our disposal, creating studies without exclusions, leaving out our biases and using every available tool that we have?

We don't know what causes these children to have autism. It is probably a complicated set of factors. But at what point do we start researching as though we really want to figure it out? Whether vaccinations are part of the puzzle or not, who knows? Can thousands of parents be wrong? It is just good science to actually explore the possibility. That is, if scientists really want to conduct science. To date, no study with real controls for vaccinations has been done. Is it that hard?

What does the CDC not want us to find out?

photo copyright Valerie Everett, used by cc.


Heather said...

i dont' expect anything different from the CDC, *sigh*

I love that picture you used with the blog! Love it, love it, love it!

Bridgett said...

Does this really surprise anybody?
The CDC never has been and never will be our friend.