About one in every 6,200 babies born in the Maritimes has Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), a genetic disease which causes red blood cells to become ‘sickle-shaped’. This sickle, or C-shaped red blood cell does not function as well in the body as normal round blood cells and can cause severe pain, organ failure, and even death in people with SCD.
Since 2008, World Sickle Cell Awareness Day has been held annually on June 19, to help increase public knowledge and raise awareness of SCD and the struggles sufferers and their families go through. SCD affects millions of people around the world, including both adults and children. It is a potentially fatal disease and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the main causes of premature death amongst children under the age of five in various African countries. Although SCD predominantly affects those of African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Indian descent, it is now increasingly found in Caucasian populations as well.
“We want to make sure all babies born in the Maritimes have the healthiest life possible,” says Rachel Mador-House, clinic coordinator/genetic counsellor at the IWK Health Centre’s Maritime Newborn Screening Program. “If we diagnose this disease early in life then we can provide treatments that may prevent complications associated with sickle cell disease.”
“If we diagnose this disease early in life then we can provide treatments that may prevent complications associated with sickle cell disease.”
The Maritime Newborn Screening Program located at the IWK Health Centre, screens all infants born in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island for Sickle Cell Disease. Newborn screening ensures that babies born with SCD are identified and placed on life saving treatments. Early interventions have been shown to prevent complications of sickle cell disease.
To learn more about Sickle Cell Disease please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at: www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/index.html
To learn more about the Maritime Newborn Screening Program please visit: www.iwk.nshealth.ca/newbornscreening
To learn more about Sickle Cell Disease Association of Nova Scotia, a local public awareness and support network please visit: http://sicklecellnovascotia.ca