Bahrain sickle cell baby cases plummet
Manama, June 17, 2010
Bahrain is winning the war against the potentially deadly sickle cell disease after a 70 per cent drop in cases, a top official has declared.
The incidence of babies with the genetic blood disorder had fallen dramatically and now only accounts for 0.6 per cent of child births, said Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) genetic diseases consultant Dr Amani Al Hajeri.
She said this was mainly due to the efforts of the Health Ministry, voluntary organisations and the private sector to raise awareness about the disease.
Speaking on the eve of World Sickle Cell Day, which falls on Saturday, the official said while the incidence of sickle cell disease was 2.1 per cent in 1985, it fell to 1.3 per cent in 1991.
'In 2000, only 1 per cent of the babies born in Bahrain had sickle cell and the figure last year reached 0.6 per cent,' said Dr Al Hajeri.
'This translates to an overall 70 per cent fall in the incidence of the disease among the newborn since 1985.'
Dr Al Hajeri said there had been huge efforts to screen secondary school children for sickle cell diseases, with more than 7,000 children included every year. She said the infection rate among couples intending to marry had also dropped to 1.3 per cent, of those who came for screening, as opposed to 5 per cent five years ago.
'The rate actually fell considerably after Bahrain started the compulsory screening process for couples intending to get married five years ago,' Dr Al Hajeri told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News (GDN).
'This enables experts to counsel the couple on the risks if they were afflicted with sickle cell disease.'
Meanwhile, Dr Al Hajeri revealed there would be celebrations across the country from Saturday to mark the day.
'Sickle cell patients will be treated to an outing at the Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park, there will be exhibitions and fun activities at Sitra Mall on Saturday, Country Mall on June 25 and Marina Mall on June 26,' she said.
A new poster to mark the day will be issued by the Health Education Directorate and pamphlets containing health advice will also be distributed.
'A drawing and painting contest will be organised by the Blood Diseases Association in co-operation with the Bahrain Society of Fine Arts,' said Dr Al Hejeri. She said the high incidence of sickle cell disease in Bahrain could be blamed on a series of malaria attacks, including the one in the 1930s.
'These epidemics resulted in an increase in the proportion of carriers of sickle cell disease,' she said.
Bahrain Society for Sickle Cell Anaemia Patient Care chairman Zakareya Ebrahim Al Kadhem revealed that there were more than 18,000 people living with the disease in Bahrain, accounting for around 2 per cent of the country's population. 'Just a few hundred are leading normal lives, while the others need regular hospital treatment,' he said.
'We have had a sharp fall in the cases of newborn with sickle cell disease and that is an encouraging sign but there are still far too many patients living with the condition.'
Twenty-five sickle cell patients died at the SMC last year and the disease has already claimed nine lives this year.-TradeArabia News Service