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Researchers have taken a first step towards understanding a terrifying and terrible disease: Lou Gehrig’s disease. Medically known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, it’s incurable and always fatal. Patients gradually become completely paralyzed. A new database being compiled by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention shows that 12,187 people in the U.S. have ALS. They cannot tell how many new diagnoses there are every year yet, but the registry shows that 4 in every 100,000 people has ALS. White men are the most likely to have ALS and whites are twice as likely as blacks to have it. “Many hypotheses have been formulated about what causes ALS, including chemical exposures, occupational exposure, military service, infectious agents, nutritional intake, physical activity, and trauma,” CDC said in a report. It’s the first time the U.S. has worked to get a grip on who gets ALS, why and how. U.S. veterans have a nearly 60 percent greater risk of contracting ALS than civilians, according to the ALS Association.


--Maggie Fox