By: MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - A new survey suggests asthma in the U.S. may finally be on the decline. But the results are so surprising that health officials are cautious about claiming a downturn.
"I wouldn't say it's good news - yet," said the study's lead author, Jeannine Schiller of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings come from a large national health survey conducted last year. The drop could just be an unexplained statistical blip, and Schiller said she's waiting for data from this year before proclaiming asthma is on the decline.
The CDC released the report Thursday.
For the past few years, about 8.6 percent of Americans have said they have asthma. But in last year's survey, 7.4 percent said they currently had it. That was the lowest mark in a decade, and represents a decline of more than 3 million people.
The largest declines were seen in black children and women.
There was also a drop in those who said they'd had an asthma attack or episode in the past year. The number fell from 4.4 percent in 2012 to 3.8 percent last year - the lowest mark in more than 15 years.
The new survey involved in-person interviews of more than 47,000 Americans and covered both adults and children.
Asthma can cause bouts of coughing, wheezing, and chest pain. Experts aren't sure what causes it, but asthma attacks can be triggered by things like tobacco smoke, air pollution, pollen, and cockroaches. Studies have pointed at decrepit housing and climate change as some of the possible reasons for the increase in asthma seen in the past decade.
The disease can be controlled through medication. Some studies have shown a gradual decline in the percentage of asthma patients who said they suffered an attack in the previous year.
Experts say there's been no recent major advance in asthma treatment or improvement in the environment that would account for the latest figures.
"Nationally, I'm not aware of anything that would explain these statistics," said Dr. Karen Freedle, an Emory University specialist in pediatric asthma.
Online: CDC report
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Hibbing Man's Death in Itasca County Ruled a Homicide
Itasca County authorities have identified the victim of a homicide as 20-year-old David Alexander Haiman of Hibbing. Sheriff Vic Williams told Eyewitness News the victim and suspect knew each other, and that this was an isolated incident.
Man Drowns in Itasca Co. Lake
The Itasca County Sheriff's Office says a suburban Twin Cities man drowned in Cut Foot Sioux Lake on Tuesday morning. A person called the sheriff's office at about 9:20 a.m. to report a person floating in the water and a boat going in circles.
St. Luke's Expanding Miller Creek Clinic to New Location
St. Luke's is expanding its Miller Creek Medical Clinic to a new location off Loberg Avenue. The clinic outgrew its old facility off Highway 53, and the new one should be up and running in October.
Range Leaders Push Forest Service to Move Twin Metals Hearing
They stood united on the Range, with the message that they want a fair process when it comes to the mineral leases for Twin Metals.
SWL&P Seeks Rate Increase
Superior Water, Light and Power Company is asking Wisconsin regulators to approve a rate increase to cover the costs of replacing aging infrastructure.