September is National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month

More than 2,900 newborns screened & diagnosed with sickle cell disease Under Illinois Program

SPRINGFIELD, ILL.—(ENEWSPF)—September 6, 2011.  September is National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, and the Illinois Department of Public Health is reminding families that newborn screening, parental education and comprehensive care can markedly reduce this debilitating illness.

Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States, affecting 70,000 to 100,000, and millions more worldwide. The disease primarily affects people of African and Mediterranean ancestry and is also prevalent in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Since 1983, National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month has been observed every September in the U.S. Since 1989, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has conducted sickle cell screenings of newborns to identify the disease and provide comprehensive education and care for their families.

“Since 1989, the Illinois Department of Public Health has diagnosed more than 2,900 newborns with sickle cell disease,” said IDPH Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold. “Newborn screening, parental education is critical to saving lives, especially in families that have a genetic history of the disease.”

Sickle cell disease is estimated to occur in 1 in 500 African-Americans and about 1 in 1,000 Latinos. More than 2 million people carry the sickle cell gene that can potentially be passed to their children. Symptoms usually begin in early childhood and include severe anemia, chronic infections and periodic episodes of pain caused by the “sickling” of red blood cells.

IDPH works in collaboration with the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois (SCDAI) to provide community-based support, counseling and education to patients and families of infants who test positive or are at risk for sickle cell disease. The Department also has partnered with the Illinois Sickle Cell Action Network (I-SCAN) to connect families with specialty health care providers including those who are uninsured.

IDPH also funds 11 pediatric hematology centers throughout Illinois and the University of Illinois at Chicago Sickle Cell Center. These partnerships provide a critical link ensuring the availability and access to medical services for infants and their families dealing with the disease.

For more information on sickle cell disease and IDPH’s newborn screening, visit the Department’s Genetics and Newborn Screening website at http://www.idph.state.il.us/HealthWellness/fs/sickle.htm.

For more information on sickle cell disease, visit the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois website at http://www.sicklecelldisease-illinois.org/.

Source: idph.state.il.us