September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month and the Ministry of Health and Wellness will be amplifying its efforts, over the next few weeks, to raise the profile on the illness with which some 19,000 Jamaicans current live.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness offers screening to all pregnant mothers and newborn babies at all public health facilities, at no cost to the family. Early screening affords medical practitioners the opportunity to determine whether or not the child has the sickle cell disease or if the child is a carrier, that is, they have the trait.
“The Ministry offers four doses of pneumococcal vaccine and a further booster dose of Haemophilus influenza type B to children who are sickle cell positive”, stated Dr Naydene Williams, Director Health Services Planning and Integration at the Ministry of Health and Wellness. “These vaccines protect patients against pneumonia, meningitis (infection around the brain) and septicaemia (infection of the blood).”
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a common genetic disorder in Jamaica. One in every 150 persons has the sickle cell disease and 1 in every 10 persons has the trait. This means that persons can have the trait and do not have any symptoms.
While a cure is yet to be discovered, science and technology have come a far way in developing and improving treatment options and care. Today persons with sickle cell disease or the trait of the disease, if detected early, can live longer, healthier lives.
The Ministry urges all pregnant women to ensure that they know their sickle cell status and that of their infants at birth. For more information, contact mothers should contact their doctor or the nearest health centre. Persons can also call 888-ONE LOVE (633-5683), or 876-927-247 for more information.