Dubai sees drop in new thalassaemia cases
In the UAE, 8.5 per cent of the population are carriers.
A drop in the number of new thalassaemia cases at a Dubai centre has been observed over the past few years, health authorities have announced.
This reduction takes the country closer to its goal of eliminating the hereditary blood disorder. Dr Fatheya Al Khaja, director of the Dubai Health Authority's (DHA) Thalassemia Centre, said: "Our aim is to ensure that no new baby is born with the disease in the UAE and this is a very attainable goal."
Community members are now more aware of the steps they have to take to prevent genetic diseases from being passed on to the next generation, resulting in the decrease in thalassaemia cases, Dr Al Khaja said.
People who inherit thalassaemia produce either no or too little haemoglobin, which is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. The disease thus makes patients very anaemic. In the UAE, 8.5 per cent of the population are carriers.
With this condition, thalassaemia patients need to have blood transfusions every three to four weeks. They require this procedure right from birth, making blood donations valuable.
"We would like to encourage the community to continue donating blood as a significant percentage of the donated blood is needed for regular life-saving transfusions for thalassaemia patients," Dr Al Khaja said.
Although the last few months have been challenging because of Covid-19, the centre has continued to provide transfusions to patients. It also ensured that medications are delivered to their homes.
Raising awareness to beat the disease
Since 2007, the centre has been doing community outreach and awareness activities, educating the youth about the importance of the premarital screening law for genetic diseases. These campaigns also help couples understand the disease and its life-long complications.
"My message to couples is that they should go for the screening much in advance so that if both are carriers of the gene, they should avoid getting married," Dr Al Khaja said.
"It is unadvisable for two thalassaemia carriers to get married because, with each pregnancy in such cases, 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.
"If only one partner has thalassaemia, then all their offsprings will be carriers of the disease. It is advisable to get screened in advance and not a few days prior to marriage," the health official said.
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