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Federal health officials announced Thursday that the rate of cases of autism and related disorders in the U.S. now stands at roughly 1 in 88 children.
The new figures from the CDC are up from a previous estimate of 1 in 110, and suggest the increase is largely a result of wider screening and better diagnosis. The Washington Post explains that the 1-in-88 figure means that autism is nearly twice as common as it was thought to be only five years ago, and that the disorder likely affects roughly 1 million American children and teens.
Among the CDC's new findings were that the prevalence of autism is five times more common in boys than girls. Higher rates of incidences were also found in certain states like Utah and New Jersey, although researchers say that access to school information could be the cause of such disparity.
While wider screening is likely behind much of the increase, some experts say that there may be more to the picture.
"While we're not completely sure of what is driving the rise in autism cases, it is certainly striking enough to warrant exploring in detail the possibility that environmental exposures contribute to this," Marc Weisskopf, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told USA Today.