The number of children estimated to have autism continues to rise, with a new government report out Thursday indicating that the condition now affects 1 in 88 kids.

That’s a 23 percent rise over the previous estimate of 1 in 110, which was released in 2009.

The new numbers published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Thursday come from data collected in 2008 on 8-year-olds in 14 communities across the country.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Boys are nearly five times more likely to have autism than girls, with some 1 in 54 males having the condition, the CDC report found.

Officials at the government agency said the increase is “due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors is unknown.”

Autism rates varied significantly across the 14 states studied with the highest occurrence reported at 1 in 47 children in Utah, while the lowest prevalence was seen in Alabama where 1 in 210 kids were diagnosed with the developmental disability.

The largest increases were seen in black and Hispanic children, the CDC report found.

“One thing the data tells us with certainty — there are many children and families who need help,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “We must continue to track autism spectrum disorders because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children.”

On a positive note, researchers said children with autism are being diagnosed at younger ages. Among kids born in 2000 — the subjects of the current study — 18 percent were diagnosed by age 3. In contrast, just 12 percent of kids born six years earlier were identified by that age.