Archives for category: Center for Disease Control

From NPR Blog:

The number of children diagnosed with autism jumped 23 percent between 2006 and 2008, according to the latest federal estimate.

Now, 1 in 88 children has been diagnosed with autism, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rapid rise prompted calls to declare the developmental disorder an epidemic. “This is a national emergency in need of a national plan,” Mark Roithmayr, president of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, said at a CDC media briefing Thursday.

But CDC scientists weren’t about to go that far. Instead, they said that most if not all of that startling increase could be due to better recognition of the disorder by parents, doctors and teachers.

“There is the possibility that the increase in cases is entirely the result of better detection,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC, said at the briefing.

From 2002 to 2008, the number of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder has risen 78 percent, according to this ongoing study, which tracks diagnoses among 8-year-olds in 14 states. It was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The survey counted not just children who had been given an official diagnosis of autism, but those whose school or medical records included descriptions of behavior typical of the disorder. Those methods have been consistent throughout the study.

Because there is no known cause for autism, the question of what’s fueled the swift rise in diagnoses over the past 20 years has been a major point of contention between advocates and scientists.

“In very much respect to Dr. Frieden, only part of the increase is better diagnoses,” Roithmayr said at the CDC today. “There is a great unknown. Something is going on here that we don’t know.”

Autism Speaks and other advocacy groups have long pressed the federal government to do more research on environmental causes of autism, including the unproven theory that childhood vaccines caused autism. Scientists have tended to focus on genetic causes of autism, and factors such as advanced parental age and premature birth, both of which increase a child’s risk of autism.

More.

Advertisements

From the Associated Press:

For the first time in 20 years, a federal panel is urging the government to lower the threshold for lead poisoning in children.

If adopted, hundreds of thousands more children could be diagnosed with lead poisoning. Too much lead is harmful to developing brains and can mean a lower IQ.

Recent research persuaded panel members that children could be harmed from lead levels in their blood that are lower than the current standard, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

While the number of cases has been falling, health officials think as many as 250,000 children have the problem, many of those undiagnosed. The proposed change could take it to 450,000 cases.

Wednesday’s vote by the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention would lower the definition of lead poisoning for young children from 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 5 micrograms. The CDC has accepted all of the panel’s recommendations in the past.

Lead — a metal that for years was common in paint and gasoline — can harm a child’s brain, kidneys and other organs. High levels in the blood can cause coma, convulsions and death. Lower levels can reduce intelligence, impair hearing and behavior and cause other problems.

Usually, the victims are children living in old homes that are dilapidated or under renovation, who pick up paint chips or dust and put it in their mouths. Lead has been banned in paint since 1978. Children have also picked up lead poisoning from soil contaminated by old leaded gasoline, and from dust tracked in from industrial worksites.

Lead poisoning is detected through a blood test, often when kids are toddlers. Most cases are handled by seeking out and removing the lead source, and monitoring the children to make sure lead levels stay down. A special treatment to remove lead and other heavy metals is used for very high levels.

But the problem has seemed to be diminishing, based on the old standard. In 2009, researchers reported that 1.4 percent of young children had elevated lead levels in their blood in 2004, the latest data available. That compares with almost 9 percent in 1988.

The lead poisoning threshold was last changed in 1991. The proposed level of 5 micrograms was calculated from the highest lead levels seen in a comprehensive annual U.S. health survey. The panel recommended that it be reassessed every four years.

“It’s a moving target,” said Perry Gottesfeld, co-chair of the group that came up with the advice.

Some groups celebrated the decision, saying medical evidence has been mounting that lower levels of lead poisoning can erode a child’s ability to learn and cause behavior problems.

“This is long overdue,” said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, a Baltimore-based organization.

The recommendation might be difficult to implement. In many places, it’s up to city and county health departments to provide many of the services for lead poisoned kids, and those departments have lost more than 34,000 jobs in the last three years because of budget cuts. Meanwhile, Congress just slashed the CDC’s lead program from more than $30 million to $2 million.

More.

Image from Flickr.

From Scranton Times-Courier:

The figure is so astounding it appears to be a misprint at first glance.

One in 110.

That’s the number of American children living with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on the most recently published estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with an ASD. And with a 10 to 17 percent annual growth rate, it is the country’s fastest growing developmental disability, according to the Autism Society.

A 2005 census study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare’s Bureau of Autism Services estimated about 20,000 Pennsylvanians, children and adults, were living with autism, although the study noted that the number was on the conservative side. The bureau now believes that number has grown to between 25,000 and 30,000 state residents.

* * *

While a clear and definitive cause for autism has yet to be determined, most physicians believe genetic makeup plays a significant role. Children who have a sibling or parent with an ASD are at a higher risk of also having one, and ASDs tend to occur more often in people who have certain other medical conditions or genetic disorders, such as Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and Down syndrome.

“Really, where we’re sort of at is that the genetic investigations are at their earliest stages,” Dr. Challman said. “A variety of genes have shown to be involved in autism. They have to do with how the brain organizes itself. Brain circuitry. But we don’t know what they do. We just know they affect autism.”

* * *

There may also be environmental factors related to the cause of autism, but, as of yet, “there’s no clear evidence,” Dr. Challman said.

Right now, there are countless studies investigating a number of things that might be a potential environmental contributor, be it prenatally or during the child’s early development. The list includes prenatal vitamins, neurotoxins in the air, water and food supply, industrial waste, levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in kids’ canned foods, food additives and preservatives and pesticides, said Donna Ferullo, director of program research for the Autism Society.

Even maternal stress and age at the time of the child’s birth are being studied, Ms. Ferullo said.

“We live in this soup of low-level exposure. There’s so many threats to the developing brain that we weren’t exposed to years ago,” Ms. Ferullo said. “Environment is suspect, but not clarified. There are numerous environmental factors under investigation. The problem is isolating it.”

For years, there have been fears among many parents’ groups that vaccines were a potential cause of autism. This was due in large part to a study that came out of England several years ago that implicated the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. That study, though, was later found to be fraudulent, Dr. Challman said.

* * *

“So there was some information that was published and it was incorrect and it made people scared,” Dr. Challman said. “It’s a belief that’s not based in science. There’s a mountain of evidence that exonerates vaccines.”

As the CDC collects more data and enhances its surveillance techniques, researchers will begin to understand more about the disease, Mr. Baio said. One recent development, he said, is the establishment of a controlled testing of three groups – children with autism, children with other developmental disabilities and children who appear to be developing typically.

“We’ll be able to compare and contrast across these three groups. The hope of that is we’ll identity some factors, be it risk factors, or things that can assist us with identifying children earlier,” he said. “Then they can get autism-specific treatments much earlier, which would have a much greater outcome.”

“In a lot of ways, we’re behind other fields of study,” Dr. Challman said. “It is frustrating for families. Sometimes the wheels of science do turn rather slowly, but if we persist, we make progress.”

More.

From Forbes:

The debate over air pollution and, more specifically, the regulation of air pollution, raged on this week as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) watered down its cross-state pollution rule and House Republicans moved to delay new rules on toxic air pollution from cement plants, solid waste incinerators, and industrial boilers.  These latest debates come on the heels of President Obama’s move last monthto reneg on promises to tighten up smog standards, a decision that angered environmentalists and led to speculation that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson might be ready to walk. In all cases, the argument against regulation goes something like this: The last thing a down economy needs is new regulation, and the EPA is overstepping its boundaries.

These arguments center largely around the idea that current air pollution regulation is good enough as-is, and that any further restrictions are aimed at tackling environmental issues and climate change, both typically seen as luxuries in a down economy. But research is continuing to pile up in support of the claim that not only are current air pollution regulations inadequate, but that air pollution is very much a public health issue.

When viewed through the public health lens, the economic arguments against regulation of air pollution begin to unravel, particularly in the face of rising healthcare costs. Consider, for example, a spate of new studies that have found a rather convincing correlation between the presence of small particulate matter (PM2.5, the ultrafine particles blown into the air by road traffic, coal-fired power plants, industrial manufacturing, and residential wood fuel combustion) and both obesity and diabetes.

Medical research has long supported the fact that exposure to ultrafine particulate matter increases the risk of various respiratory, cardiovascular, and pulmonary illnesses. Incidences of asthma, heart attacks, and chronic bronchitis are all higher in areas where the concentration of ultrafine particulate matter is higher. The correlation between particulate matter and these health issues is particularly pronounced in children, as well as low-income communities, which are often located closer to the sources of particulate matter (highways, factories, power plants) than their higher income neighbors.

Over the past decade, new studies have emerged that link air pollution to two of this country’s most pressing (and expensive) health epidemics: obesity and type II diabetes. Both are not only on the rise in terms of diagnoses, but also in terms of the costs associated with treatment. According to a January 2011 study by the Society of Actuaries, the current cost of the obesity epidemic in the United States is $270 billion a year.  The American Diabetes Association puts the current cost of dealing with diabetes (over 90 percent of U.S. diabetes cases are type II) at $174 billion. According to the Center for Disease Control, asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism in the United States, and the cost of treating asthma in children 18 and under alone is $3.2 billion per year. Meanwhile, financial analysts estimate the cost of tightened air pollution regulations at $130 billion. Granted, these are not budget line items that are easily swapped in for each other, but a tie-in to obesity and diabetes may just make tackling air pollution more economically viable.

Of course, no one is saying, “hey, forget about diet and exercise, just take care of air pollution!” Nonetheless, even after controlling for factors such as genetics, income levels, weight, diet and exercise, Harvard researchers found a “consistent and significant” relationship between Type II diabetes prevalence and exposure to ultrafine particulate matter in a recent study.

More.

From Scientific American:

A workplace accident might mean a paper cut or spilled coffee for many—or even loss of life or limb for others. For a select few scientists, however, a little slipup on the job could release a deadly virus or toxin into the environment.

Some 395 reported “potential release events” of “select agents” occurred in U.S. government laboratories between 2003 and 2009, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) reported. “Select agent” is government-speak for a biological agent or toxin that is considered to pose “a severe threat” to human, animal or plant health—or livestock and agricultural products. Special approval from the government is required to handle these agents and toxins, and that can only happen in specially equipped labs.

Not all labs, of course, are of the Contagion and Outbreak biosafety level-4 ilk that handle mega-killers such as Ebola and smallpox. But there are plenty of other organisms studied in government labs that can easily infect and sicken humans if an accidental release occurs.

Just what were these little incidents? Most (196) were an unspecified “loss of containment.” There were also 77 reported spills and 46 accidental needle sticks or other “sharps” injuries, according to unpublished data collected in 2010 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With all of these incidents, however, only seven lab-acquired infections were reported: four Brucella melitensis (which also infects cows and sheep), two Francisella tularensis (also known as rabbit fever, which is a class A, highly virulent bacterium) and one case of San Joaquin Valley Fever (Coccidioides, an infectious fungus).

These CDC mishaps are described as part of a National Research Council (NRC) review published earlier this month in preparation for assessing the risks of a proposed bio-research facility at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. (The CDC plans to publish a more detailed analysis of potential releases in early 2012, CIDRAP noted.)

More.

From New York Times:

The maker of Dial Complete hand soap says that it kills more germs than any other brand. But is it safe?

That question has federal regulators, consumer advocates and soap manufacturers locked in a battle over the active ingredient in Dial Complete and many other antibacterial soaps, a chemical known as triclosan.

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of the chemical, which was created more than 40 years ago as a surgical scrub for hospitals. Triclosan is now in a range of consumer products, including soaps, kitchen cutting boards and even a best-selling toothpaste, Colgate Total. It is so prevalent that a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the chemical present in the urine of 75 percent of Americans over the age of 5.

Several studies have shown that triclosan may alter hormone regulation in laboratory animals or cause antibiotic resistance, and some consumer groups and members of Congress want it banned in antiseptic products like hand soap. The F.D.A. has already said that soap with triclosan is no more effective than washing with ordinary soap and water, a finding that manufacturers dispute.

The F.D.A. was to announce the results of its review several months ago, but now says the timing is uncertain and unlikely until next year. The Environmental Protection Agency is also looking into the safety of triclosan.

The outcome of the federal inquiries poses a significant risk to the makers of antimicrobial and antibacterial hand soaps, which represent about half of the $750 million market for liquid hand soaps in the United States, according to the market research firm Kline & Company.

More.

From .

From : an investigation by 19 Action News Reporter, Scott Taylor.

 

From Houston Chronicle:

rom Dana Janczak’s home in a secluded rural area east of Cleveland, it’s a 40-mile ride to the nearest asthma doctor in Kingwood, so she tries to keep trips to a minimum by stocking up on nebulizers: four in her house and two in her car.

Janczak is one of 25 million Americans who suffer from asthma, but what distinguishes her and other rural residents in the Houston region — which has the highest prevalence of asthma in Texas — is that, despite her best efforts, she still has ended up in the hospital three times.

A Houston Chronicle analysis of state health records found that rural Cleveland in Liberty County has the highest rate of hospitalization for asthma-related conditions in the 10-county region. In the Houston area overall, nearly 10,000 people were hospitalized between 2007 and 2009 for asthma, according to data provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“We had to live in the ER for a while,” Janczak recalls of her most serious attack in 2007. “I felt like my airway was closed. I heard my husband’s voice was getting farther and farther away.”

Liberty County health professionals say several factors contribute to the elevated hospitalization rate, such as a high percentage of smokers and the fact that much of the area is densely covered by woods and their naturally aggravating allergens. But the primary factor, they say, is likely the lack of access to medical care.

“We have few pediatricians in Liberty,” said Alexis Cordova, president of the Liberty County Health Awareness Coalition. “We have limited health care, which means people don’t take their children to doctors as often so their respiratory problems become more serious.”

Other rural areas such as Coldspring and Shepherd in San Jacinto County also had significantly elevated hospitalization rates. Experts attribute that mainly to one thing: Urban areas, with more health care options, are better equipped to treat the respiratory disease that kills almost 4,000 people and puts 456,000 Americans in hospitals every year.

“(Asthma) specialty services are really concentrated in urban areas,” said Dr. William Calhoun, a lung disease professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “In Central and West Texas, up to the Panhandle, there are entire counties that don’t have pulmonary or allergy specialists.”

* * *

Uniformly, though, the areas in the greater Houston region that also have elevated hospitalization rates for asthma are all in pockets where the median household income is lower than the average.

Sunnyside, mere miles from the Texas Medical Center and its dense knot of top-notch medical clinics, ranked second-highest in its hospitalization rate in the Chronicle analysis. With a household median income level of $17,000, however, it is much poorer than the rest of Harris County where the median income is nearly $43,000, suggesting poverty may be the greatest single contributor.

* * *

Generally, the east side of Houston – with the Ship Channel and an array of oil refineries – has a higher rate of asthma hospitalizations than the west.

North Pasadena, La Porte, Highlands and Baytown – which are all along the Ship Channel – have higher than average rates. So do La Marque and west Texas City, near the oil and gas facilities in Galveston County.

“You’re right in the road of refineries and that is a very significant source of pollution, and pollution is documented to trigger asthma,” said Dr. Harold Farber, a professor and pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital. “I know some pediatricians have said when the wind from the refineries is blowing in our direction, you get more kids coming into the office with asthma.”

* * *

Medical research shows that environmental factors can trigger asthma attacks, including air pollution, secondhand smoke, dust mites and even cockroach allergens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that higher levels of the ozone pollutant is a significant risk to asthma patients, and the Houston region is classified as being in “severe nonattainment” by EPA standards.

* * *

The CDC says the asthma rate has been increasing steadily over the past decade: while about 20 million people, or 7 percent of the population, had asthma in 2001, 25 million had it in 2009.

In 2007, the total charges for asthma hospitalizations in Texas were more than $446 million, according to the report conducted in 2009 by the state health department. While a third of that is paid by private insurance firms, more than half falls to Medicare and Medicaid.

More.

From The Press Democrat:

Residents in Sonoma County suffer from a rare and fatal illness related to mad cow disease at a rate that is twice as high as the national average, prompting victims’ families to launch a search for answers.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rapidly progressing and fatal neurodegenerative disorder, on average has taken the life of one Sonoma County resident each year over the past 17 years, according to county data.

But in the past half year, the affliction, which strikes one in a million people in the United States every year, has killed three Sonoma County residents.

Lorraine Collins, a Santa Rosa woman whose husband, Ric, died of CJD in October, has been tracking local deaths and reaching out to families of the afflicted to develop a support network.

“It’s the three in the last six months that’s driving me nuts,” Collins said. “There’s probably a lot more people who have it. And why aren’t we getting that information?”

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released a study emphasizing the need for surveillance of public health threats like mad cow disease, at a time when the U.S. government has proposed significant cuts to those monitoring programs.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is one of several “prion diseases” that afflict both humans and animals and that are caused by a misshapen protein called a prion. The most well-known prion disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as BSE or mad cow disease, which has been linked to a form of CJD called variant CJD.

* * *

More.

From Port Huron Times Herald:

Five children in southeastern St. Clair County have been diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer in the past four years, and officials are trying to find out why.

The answer so far: They’re investigating.

This isn’t the first time the St. Clair County Health Department has investigated reports of a cancer cluster — or this possible cluster involving Wilms’ tumor, a cancer which is diagnosed in about 550 cases annually in the United States.

The county began an investigation in 2009 into the incidence of Wilms’ tumor, said Susan Amato, the department’s director of health education and planning. The state Department of Community Health determined further investigation wasn’t needed, she said.

Several years before that investigation, the county health department contracted for a firm to research a possible link between petroleum refining in Chemical Valley and cancer in St. Clair County. No conclusive evidence was found, Amato said.

Officials reopened the 2009 investigation after the latest case of Wilms’ tumor — Ireland Kulman, a 6-month-old girl from Marine City who was diagnosed in March — sparked concerns within the community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, a cancer cluster is a greater-than-expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a geographic area during a period of time. According to the CDC’s website, cases are more likely to represent a cluster if they involve one type of cancer, a rare type of cancer or a type of cancer in a group not usually affected by that cancer.

But determining if a number of cancer cases in an area constitutes a cluster is not easy . . . .

More.

%d bloggers like this: