CDC: 15 million American adults have asthma

Friday, August 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Nearly 15 million American adults _ about one in every 14 _ suffer from asthma, according to the government's first state-by-state survey of the respiratory disorder.

About 6 million more adults say they have had asthma at some point in their lives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

The data showed no broad regional trends, leaving scientists scratching their heads as to why some states are more susceptible to asthma than others.

``Anything we'd say would be speculation,'' said Dr. Stephen Redd of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.

Asthma is a chronic ailment marked by wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and tightness of the chest. It accounts for about $12.7 billion in health care costs each year.

According to the survey, Nevada had the highest rate in the country, with 13.4 percent of residents saying they have suffered from asthma in their lives. The state with the highest rate of people currently suffering from asthma is Maine, at nearly 9 percent.

Louisiana had the lowest rate in the country for both categories, with 5 percent of residents reporting they currently have asthma and only 3 percent more saying they once had it.

Louisiana health department spokesman Bob Johannesseen said he was skeptical of the numbers, which relied on asthma sufferers themselves rather than health care data.

``We're very pleased to see any report that ranks Louisiana at the top of a good list, but it's a condition we are very concerned about,'' he said. ``It very well could be underreported.''

Asthma rates have more than doubled since 1980, hitting particularly hard among the inner-city poor. The nonprofit Pew Environmental Health Commission predicts 29 million Americans will suffer from it by 2020.

One theory for the increase suggests that germ-conscious Americans are shielding infants so much that immune system development is stunted, and immune cells overreact to normally harmless substances, like dust.

The CDC survey, conducted last year, asked more than 180,000 randomly selected adults whether a doctor had ever told them they have asthma and whether they still suffer from the disorder.

The survey reflected a broad gender gap: 9.1 percent of women said they currently had asthma, compared to just 5.1 percent of men. Previous studies have shown similar disparities.

Researchers have speculated that hormonal differences account for the gap.