Sunday, October 11, 2009

Healthy = Autism?

Recently at work after updating some friends on my son's 6th month check up and how he braved all of his shots, I was informed by a designer to be cautious of the shots that are given now because certain ones are causing autism in children. He explained that he has a friend that has a son whom after a particular shot the next day he was blank behind the eyes and soon after he was diagnosed with autism. Of course when I asked him which shot his friend is claiming caused it he had no idea, which caused me to be both nervous and weary of this news.

Until...later that day I talked to a co-worker who said that she has a friend who has had that same claim and has even noted that Jenny McCarthy wrote about it in her book Louder than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism about her son. From what she told me the shot that is causing this is the mumps, measles and rubella shots, the very shots that are needed for children to attend school.

Apparently the worry started in the late 80's and is continuing today though there is no conclusive evidence that they are linked, there is also nothing to prove that the shots do not cause it either. Since 1994 when the shots became mandatory, there has been a raise in autism diagnoses.

I started to look up this information and this is what I was able to find:

Studies cannot link MMR to autism
If MMR caused a significant fraction of the rise in cases of autism, one would expect that its introduction would have been associated with a jump in autism cases. Studies have examined this question in both California and Britain. In neither case has any link been found.

Far from being covered up, the MMR/autism hypothesis has been intensively studied. One of the authors of Wakefield's original paper has recently stepped forward to say that "There is now unequivocal evidence that MMR is not a risk factor for autism -- this statement is not spin or medical conspiracy, but reflects an unprecedented volume of medical study."

The parents of autistic children are some of the most courageous and dedicated in my practice. I can only begin to grasp their level of frustration surrounding the many uncertainties that attend the cause of autism. The studies admittedly cannot disprove that MMR has ever provoked a single case of autism. But they do show, unequivocally, that if this has happened at all, it has happened only extremely rarely, and cannot begin to account for the rise in autistic cases that has caused so much distress. There is no doubt, on the other hand, that the dangers from measles itself are real and well-documented.

What are your thoughts?

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