CNN Top News Stories of 2008

Autism – Number Two Health Story of 2008

Debate over the causes of autism continued to rage after a court decided to compensate a family whose daughter developed the disorder after receiving childhood vaccinations.

For years, some parents have contended that childhood vaccinations cause autism.

But studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere have found no link between autism and vaccines. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and other medical organizations have repeatedly asserted that vaccines are safe.

But the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation concluded that Hannah Poling, a child who had been predisposed to autism, had a condition that was “significantly aggravated” by vaccinations and that her family should be compensated.

Hannah began having problems after receiving nine childhood vaccines in 2000, said her father, Dr. Jon Poling, a neurologist in Athens, Georgia.

While the Polings said they don’t oppose childhood vaccinations, they want thimerosal, a mercury vaccine preservative, removed.

Thimerosal was removed from infant vaccines beginning in 1999. Even after its removal, the autism rate has continued to climb. The CDC estimates that one in 150 children is affected.

The United Nations declared the first official World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 this year.

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