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Utah ranks 2nd in nation for shaken-baby syndrome reports

Utah ranks 2nd in nation for shaken-baby syndrome reports

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WEBER COUNTY — More accounts of shaken-baby syndrome are reported in Weber County and Utah than in many other counties and states in America, a new study says.

Nationwide, Weber County ranks third among counties and Utah ranks second among states of cases of shaken-baby syndrome — or abusive head trauma that causes brain bleeding, swelling and bleeding in the eyes. The data identifying about 3,600 cases nationally over the last 25 years was collected from 30 different sources by the Medill Justice Project.

In Weber County, the Medill Justice Project found 5.06 cases of shaken-baby syndrome per 100,000 people. The county fell behind Sarpy, Neb. and Richmond, Ga. and was followed by Douglas, Neb. and Summit, Ohio.

Utah was second to Nebraska in statewide rankings. Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ohio were third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

The project was the first-known of its kind, the organization said, and brings to light the many factors involved with reporting cases of shaken-baby syndrome.

Medill Justice Project said the high number of reported cases could be due to any number of causes in addition to abuse, including awareness, influential physicians, misdiagnoses, aggressive prosecutors, medical examiners and hospitals, as well as media attention.

The National Center on Shaken-Baby Syndrome was headquartered in Weber County until 2011, when it moved to Farmington. The organization said the center may have brought awareness to the abuse, effecting reporting in Utah.

A manager of Weber-Morgan Children’s Justice Center said she was surprised by the results, the Medill Justice Project wrote. She said increased awareness of the abuse may inflate the reporting.

One doctor claimed there are a lot of misdiagnoses, according to the Medill Justice Project.

Dr. Randell Alexander, a member of the international advisory board for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome agreed it was possible.

“I hope it doesn’t happen, but it’s not impossible. These are heavy-duty decisions where someone’s life is involved, and so I do think we need to be sure that it’s a thoughtful process and we’re getting it right,” Alexander told the Medill Justice Project.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof

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