State urges sickle cell disease screening

State urges sickle cell disease screening All South Dakota newborns should be screened for sickle cell disease, a disease once thought to put only African American children at risk, says the Department of Health.

"Doctors have been able to request screening for sickle cell disease through South Dakota's Newborn Metabolic Screening Program for many years but it was not frequently ordered because it was thought to be primarily an African American disease," said Laurie Gill, director of the department's Division of Health and Medical Services. "However, new research indicates that other children, particularly Native Americans, are at risk. That's why we're working to educate health care providers and parents alike about the importance of screening all newborns for sickle cell disease."

Sickle cell disease affects the red blood cells. Sickled red blood cells can block the vessels through which blood flow, preventing blood and oxygen from reaching parts of the body, causing significant pain and damage to organs.

Gill noted that while South Dakota mandates screening for three newborn metabolic conditions (phenylketonuria, congenital hypothyroidism, galactose- mia) the state also offers a supplemental panel that screens for more than 30 metabolic disorders. When that supplemental panel became available in 1999 just 19 percent of newborns received it. As of May 2004, 92 percent of newborns received the supplemental screens.

"We're very pleased with the high percentage of newborns receiving the supplemental screen and would hope for the same result with sickle cell screening as the education effort continues," said Gill. "South Dakota physicians and hospitals deserve a great deal of credit for achieving these rates without the mandates many other states have chosen to put in place."

Parents with questions about newborn metabolic screening should contact their doctor or the department's Newborn Metabolic Screening Program at 1-800-738-2301. Information is also available on the Web at newborn.htm.

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