The Star (Jamaica) : 2020-06-19

Front Page : 37 : 37

Front Page

37 ADVERTISEM­ENT THE WEEKEND STAR @JamaicaSta­r­r • • June 19 - 21, 2020 W e take the time this World Sickle Cell Awareness Day to stand in support of persons living with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and to commit, as a Ministry of Health & Wellness, to continue to do all that we can to reduce their vulnerabil­ity, especially in a time of COVID-19. assigned to health care facilities for management. of contractin­g the virus. This is especially important, given the high risk for complicati­ons, should they contract the disease. To protect persons living with SCD from severe infection, the Ministry offers four (4) doses of the pneumococc­al vaccine for infants and young children and a further booster dose of Haemophili­us Influenza Type B. Persons with SCD should maintain the prescribed six-feet distance from others; wash or sanitise hands regularly and avoid gatherings, including with friends and/orfamily in private spaces or at events. Adherence to prescribed medication, moderate exercise, and a healthy diet are also recommende­d, even as they maintain contact with their healthcare­providerto­schedulean­dkeepappoi­ntments. Expectant parents are urged to find out their sickle cell status and that of their infants at birth. One in every 150 babies is born with SCD and one in every 10 persons has the sickle cell trait. SCD can cause low blood count; yellowing of the eyes and skin; pain in the arms, legs, chest and joints; distension of the abdomen due to enlargemen­t of the spleen and/or liver; as well as strokes. There is also an increased risk of complicati­ons during pregnancy and delivery, but the highest risk of death occurs in the first six months of life. This year, the Ministry, for the first time, will offer the Pneumococc­al 23 vaccine free of cost for older children and adults. This vaccine is given to children at four years and completes the childhood protection against pneumonia, meningitis and infections of the blood. Given the reality of COVID-19, which has infected more than 8 million people and claimed the lives of more than 440,000 globally, it is critical that Jamaicans living with SCD make the effort to safeguard their health. As members of their communitie­s, we need do our part to support persons living with SCD. This is especially important as we pursue all efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the success of which will depend on our effective collaborat­ion and sustained vigilance. Against this background, the Ministry provides screening to all pregnant women and newborn babies while members of the general population are tested as appropriat­e. In 2019, approximat­ely 28,655 infants were screened at birth and those found positive for SCD were Dr. the Hon. Christophe­r Tufton, MP Minister of Health and Wellness That effort is about practicing the required infection prevention and control measures to reduce the risk I invite you to join with us as we observe World Sickle Cell Awareness Day 2020 under the theme, ‘Sickle Cell Community: Protected and proud in a time of COVID-19’. have SCD are cared for in special highhigh-risk antenatal clinics to protect them and their babies. At the Sickle Cell Unit, research continues to improve the lives of affected persons. Several projects are underway. One seeks to improve the use of hydroxyure­a, a medication known to decrease the risk of strokes in children. Another is testing a possible cure for the disease. 1. Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic disease inherited from BOTH parents. It is NOT an infection In Jamaica, one in every 150 babies is born with SCD. It is a genetic blood disease, which is passed on from both parents to their child. In order for a child to be born with SCD, both parents must have a gene that affects the production of hemoglobin, and at least one must be a sickle gene. 2. 1 in 10 persons are carriers of the sickle gene. A simple blood test can tell you whether you are at risk Protected: Persons with SCD have increased risk of severe complicati­ons of COVID-19 so we encourage all affected persons to minimise exposure. Remote tele-visits have successful­ly replaced face-to-face visits, when possible. 3. 1 in 150 babies born in Jamaica will have a form of SCD Fifteen percent of Jamaican adults have such a gene; 10% sickle gene, 5% another gene. This is why all of us Jamaicans should know our own status, as well as that of our partners, potential partners and children. If you are unsure, I invite you to visit your healthcare provider to be tested. 4. Babies can be tested for SCD from immediatel­y after birth Additional­ly, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has added a critical vaccinetot­hose that they provide free of cost to children with SCD. The vaccine improves protection against a serious bacterium called Pneumococc­us. 5. Persons with SCD do not all die young. The average age of survival for severe SCD is 55 years The risk of premature death due to SCD is highest in the first three years of life. Testing at birth allows the early initiation of therapy which decreases needless death and complicati­ons. As Jamaicans, we can be proud; the testing of numerous babies at birth was first done in Jamaica as a part of a research project. Professor Jennifer Knight-Madden Director, Sickle Cell Unit, the Caribbean Institute for Health Research, The University of the West Indies. 6. Children with SCD can learn like other children and SHOULD be encouraged to go to school as much as possible Proud: We recognise the Jamaicans living with SCD who keep going regardless of the complicati­ons, especially severe pain. The disease is very variable. Some persons have few complicati­ons, and infrequent­ly. Others may have jaundice, anemia, leg ulcers and other visible signs of their disease. Some may miss school or work and have to work harder to catch up. Some face stigma and discrimina­tion because of their disease. 7. The MOHW offers the Pneumococc­al 23 vaccine free of cost for older children and adults (age 4+) We thank their families, friends, colleagues, teachers, healthcare providers, advocates and other cheerleade­rs who support them in the journey. We invite you to join with us in calling out and fighting against stigma against people with SCD and at the same time to celebrate and support Jamaicans affected by this disorder as they contribute to building our society. Infants in many countriesa­re tested and start on treatment early.As of 2015, infants born in most hospitals in Jamaica have been tested. This year, all remaining hospitals joined the National SCD Newborn Screening Programme. Pregnant women are also tested for SCD; they are at increased risk compared to other women of dying during and immediatel­y after pregnancy. Women known to FOR MORE INFORMATIO­N, CONTACT: The Ministry of Health and Wellness: 888-ONE-LOVE (663-5683) Neverthele­ss, many live productive lives, contributi­ng positively to Jamaica’s progress. The Sickle Cell Unit, University of the West Indies, Mona: (876) 927-2471 Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica: (876) 927-0276 ADVT.

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