World Autism Awareness Day 2016: What is autism and what causes the condition?

There are more than 700,000 people in the UK living with autism – which is more than one in 100. World Autism Awareness Day is marked on 2 April to raise awareness of the condition and its impact on individuals and families. On the day, here are key facts, myths and statistics about the lifelong condition.

Although there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, a better understanding of therapies, support and other interventions are available to help adults, children and their parents.

What is autism?

Autism is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, behaviour and interests. It is a spectrum disorder, which means that while autistic people share certain difficulties, the condition will affect individuals differently. Unless the right support is available or given, autism can have a profound and sometimes devastating impact on individuals and their families. The right support can make a huge difference to the lives of people with autism and those around them.

“Autistic people see, hear and feel the world in a different way from other people,” the National Autistic Society (NAS) states. “If you are autistic, you are autistic for life – autism is not an ‘illness’ and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic as a fundamental aspect of their identity.”

The NAS has recently launched a campaign called Too Much Information, to raise awareness of autism.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “Autism is complex and autistic people and their families don’t expect or want people to be experts. But our research shows that when people recognise that someone is autistic, and understand the difficulties they face, they’re more likely to respond with empathy and understanding.”

What causes autism?

The exact causes are unknown, but research suggests a combination of genetic and environmental factors may be involved. The condition is not caused by a person’s upbringing or their social circumstances.

According to the NHS, most researchers believe a child’s genes inherited from their parents could make them more vulnerable to developing autism. Others believe an individual born with a genetic predisposition to autism only develops the condition if they are then exposed to specific environmental triggers, such as certain epilepsy medications.

A number of things have been linked to autism in the past, including the MMR vaccine. Various major studies worldwide have shown no evidence of a link between autism and the vaccine.

Source: ibtimes

MMR vaccine linked to lower risk of serious infections

The MMR vaccine may not only protect you from measles, mumps, and rubella — it may lower your risk of contracting other serious infections as well, according to a new study from Statens Serum Institute in Denmark.

Dr. Signe Sørup, lead author of the paper, said that the findings underscore the numerous benefits of following the immunization schedule that has been a mainstay of public health since the 1970s. “MMR may have a general immune stimulating effect preventing hospital admissions for unrelated infections,” she wrote in an email to Medical Daily. “It highlights the importance of receiving the MMR vaccine on time.”

The study, which is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surveyed nearly half a million Danish children born between 1996 and 2006. Over a period ranging from 11 months to two years, the researchers tracked immunization among these children. Besides an MMR shot at 15 months, the recommended vaccine schedule included shots for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-Hib) administered at three, five, and 12 months.

The researchers found that receiving the MMR vaccine on time — that is, after the DTaP-IPV-Hib shot — corresponded to a lower risk of being involved in one of the 56,889 hospital admissions for general infections attributed to the sample. This relationship was particularly clear for lower respiratory tract infections and complications requiring longer hospitalization. But while the results point to new benefits, they also illuminate a waning compliance with public health recommendations.

“The coverage with MMR is suboptimal in many high-income countries; in the present study, about 50 percent of children were not vaccinated on time,” Sørup and colleagues write. “Physicians should encourage parents to have children vaccinated on time with MMR and avoid giving vaccinations out of sequence, because the present study suggests that timely MMR vaccination averted a considerable number of hospital admissions for any infection between ages 16 and 24 months.”

Source: Medical Daily