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Sickle cell disease on the rise

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About two per cent of babies born in Ghana every year have sickle cell diseases which need to be managed properly to avoid infant mortality.

Without proper medical diagnosis and treatment, most of these children die by the age of five years, with malaria, chest infections and anaemia being the major causes.

Prof. G. Ankrah-Badu of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital disclosed these at a two-day sensitisation of media personnel on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) in Accra and said between 25 to 30 per cent of Ghanaians carry genes that can result in the sickle cell disease when passed on to children, adding that most of the carriers do not know of carrying such genes.

He therefore expressed the need for sicklers to be counselled on decisions regarding marriage.

He said there are only a few clinics in the health system in Accra, Tema, Koforidua, Kumasi and Sunyani, to manage patients hence the need for more health personnel to be trained to handle patients in other parts of the country.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition of the blood that causes anaemia and damage to some organs of the body, mainly the bones, eyes, brain and kidneys.

The scientific discovery of the disease was in 1910 when a Chicago Physician, Dr. James Herrick, came into contact with a Grenadan dental student with severe anaemia and yellow eyes (jaundice). He examined his blood under the microscope and saw sickle-shaped red cells and immediately published his findings and called the disease sickle cell anaemia.

The disease occurs when one inherits a sickle haemoglobin gene from one parent and another abnormal haemoglobin from the other parent. If the other abnormal gene happens to be another sickle haemoglobin gene, the resultant condition is the sickle cell anaemia.

Other abnormal genes common in Ghana are haemoglobin C, beta thalssaemia and haemoglobin F genes.

In Ghana, one Dr. Felix Konotey-Ahulu, pioneered the management of the disease by setting up a clinic in 1965 which is rated as the largest in the world. His research showed that people knew of the disease several centuries ago.

Source: The Ghanaian Times