HOUSTON — Measles cases are expected to rise in Texas as more people choose not to vaccinate their children. 

One of the main concerns that the anti-vaccine movement often sites is the fear vaccines cause autism.

The Center for Disease Control estimated 1 in 59 children will be diagnosed with autism.

“There is no question that the number of children being diagnosed has increased dramatically over the past few decades,” said Dr. Brendon Lee, professor and chairman of the Department of Molecular Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.

Lee said one reason for the rise may be that autism wasn’t recognized as easily as it is now. He also admits there may be other factors contributing to the rise. 

Lee researches autism, trying to learn what causes the genetic mutations that lead to autism in hopes of finding treatments.  

“We shouldn’t diagnose it as one disease," he said. "It really is hundreds of diseases. I think that’s really the challenge."

Lee explained that autism causes the person who has it to have a disconnection with the world around them. He said it’s a disease that research shows is usually genetic, starting in vitro.

“There have been many studies that suggest that the inheritability or the genetic contribution of autism can be as high as 90 percent. The environmental component can be anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent perhaps.”

Research is still underway as to what that environmental component is, however it could be toxins or other factors a person meets through their life.

However, Lee agrees with the CDC and has found there is no link between vaccines and autism.

“There is no good data that supports that vaccinations cause autism," Lee said. "Vaccines certainly are enormously protective and the value of vaccinations to a society outweighs any possible negative effects.”

Lee described the word autism as an umbrella term with many genetic causes and symptoms.

Lee said with continued research, he’s optimistic about what science will reveal about the roots of autism and how to treat it.

“I think that the future is bright," he said. "I do think that we will continue to discover causes and genetic causes of autism.”

Lee said the best way to diagnose autism early is for parents to take their kids to their regular checkups and monitor the milestones set by the pediatrician.

Children are often diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 5.

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