Dubai sees drastic drop in thalassemia cases
DUBAI, September 1, 2014
The number of new cases of thalassaemia in newborns in Dubai, UAE has drastically reduced due to rise in awareness levels, said a top health official.
Dr Khawla Belhoul, director of Dubai Health Authority’s Thalassaemia Centre, said: “Since three to four years, the number of new cases of the inherited blood disorder thalassaemia has reduced to zero to one case per year as opposed to 14 to 18 cases per year. This means, the centre receives either no case or one new case per year.”
The drastic reduction in numbers maybe attributed to the extensive medical and educational awareness campaigns, she said.
Premartial screening also has a strong impact to reduce the incidence of the disease but the impact was not immediate, said Dr Belhoul.
“Since 2007, we began exhaustive community outreach and awareness activities which has directly resulted in reducing the number of thalassaemia cases in the emirate. We conducted awareness activities and invited various groups to visit the Thalassaemia Centre as part of the outreach programme,” she said.
Last year, 54 schools, two universities and 11 government departments visited the centre as part of the awareness campaigns, besides five awareness activities that were conducted by the centre across malls in Dubai, eight awareness activities across government institutions and two campaigns in universities.
The focus has been on school and university students, she said.
“Each year students from class nine to 12 visit the centre and are educated about the disease. Reaching out to them to understand the disease and its life-time complications has greatly helped curb the rise in number of new cases.”
She said the students opt to get themselves tested to understand whether they are a carrier or not and this is important to do early on in life so that they can take future decisions carefully.
Thalessaemia is a recessive genetic disease, meaning both parents must carry the gene to pass it along. When that is the case, with each pregnancy there is a 25 per cent chance that a child will be born with the disease, a 50 per cent chance the child will only be a carrier and a 25 per cent chance the child will not be affected.
“Our message is clear-it is unadvisable for both partners with thalassaemia to get married because there are strong changes that all the babies born to that couple will carry the disease and we see several such cases. However, if only one person has thalassaemia it is still okay because the baby will be a carrier but will not have thalassaemia.”
Therefore, it is important for the youth to know their status with regard to thalassaemia early on, she added. - TradeArabia News Service