In U.S., Arthritis Affects

One-Fourth of Adults

Arthritis has been diagnosed in approximately one-quarter of American adults, and an additional 17 percent may have the disease but be undiagnosed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

Arthritis, a musculoskeletal disease that causes painful inflammation in the joints, is the leading cause of disability in the United States and a major financial drain on the nation's health care system.

The percentage of those for whom a form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia has been diagnosed ranges from 17.8 percent in Hawaii to 35.8 percent in Alabama in 2002, according to a CDC survey of 30 states. The median rate was 27.6 percent.

"That is a huge number, compared to most other diseases," said Chad Helmick, a CDC arthritis expert, who noted that the number of Americans with arthritis was expected to increase sharply as the baby-boom generation ages.

The estimated direct and indirect costs of arthritis and other related rheumatic diseases was $86.2 billion in 1997, equivalent to about 1 percent of the gross domestic product, the CDC said.

Free Therapy Sought

For Some AIDS Patients

The U.S. government should pay to treat all low-income Americans infected with the AIDS virus, at a cost of an extra $5.6 billion over the next 10 years, a committee of experts recommended.

The committee at the Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government on health issues, said the proposed treatment program would pay for itself by reducing future health costs.

All U.S. citizens with human immunodeficiency virus who make less than $22,500 a year should be eligible, the panel urged. It said the program should pay for HIV drugs that can keep patients healthy and for the supportive care that goes along with it.

The federal government should establish and fully fund a national program for treatment of individuals with HIV infection that would be administered by the states, committee chairman Lauren LeRoy, president of Grantmakers in Health, a nonprofit health educational organization, said at a news conference.

Total public spending on HIV and AIDS is about $7.2 billion a year in the United States, LeRoy said. The new federal program would take over what states currently spend on HIV and AIDS through Medicare and Medicaid, and would end up costing about $500 million extra annually, she said.

Air Pollution May Affect

Unborn, Study Says

Soot and other air pollution can affect not only animals and people, but also their unborn children, researchers reported.

They found that genetic mutations known to be caused by some pollutants can be passed through sperm to baby mice. Presumably, the same thing could happen to humans, they report in today's issue of the journal Science.

Mice that breathed polluted air from a steel mill were much more likely to father offspring with genetic mutations than mice that breathed filtered air, the team at Toronto's McMaster University found. They also noted that "structural changes in DNA have been detected in human sperm after air pollution exposure."

Air pollution has also been linked to heart disease, lung cancer and birth defects, they added.

-- From News Services