Two illnesses added to neonatal screening

Two genetic disorders will be added to the neonatal screening, the so-called “heel prick” in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers recently informed the Dutch Parliament.

Per January 1, 2017, the illnesses alpha-thalassemia and beta-thalassemia will be added to the neonatal screening in the Netherlands, and also the Caribbean Netherlands. Alpha-thalassemia and betathalassemia are hereditary blood disorders.

Island Governor Jonathan Johnson (r)with his son Nolan and wife First Lady Rosalyn Johnson (c) and Dr, Gina Boorsma, administering the test is Lab technician Juliet Robinson (Photo GIS Saba)
Island Governor Jonathan Johnson (r)with his son Nolan and wife First Lady Rosalyn Johnson (c) and Dr, Gina Boorsma, administering the test is Lab technician Juliet Robinson
(Photo GIS Saba)

Affected individuals have a shortage of red blood cells (anaemia), which can cause pale skin, weakness, fatigue, and more serious complications which often results in patients with low blood. Thalassemia reduces the production of haemoglobin, the iron-containing protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body.

The Netherlands for the Public Health and the Environment RIVM has advised to include the two diseases in the screening procedure of newborns. The RIVM has been asked to give priority to the providing of information to the public and to health experts.

The expansion of the neonatal screening with alphathalassemia and beta-thalassemia has the support of the Neonatal Screening Programme Committee, the Dutch Association of Paediatrics, and the involved authorities in the Caribbean Netherlands, stated Schippers in her letter.

The process to adapt the necessary legislation, including the health insurance law for the Caribbean Netherlands, has started. The preparations to adapt the necessary material and brochures for the experts and the general public have also started.

The neonatal screening, known in the Netherlands as the “hielprik,” was introduced in the Caribbean Netherlands in January 2015, but was only implemented in St. Eustatius and Saba in October 2015. In St. Eustatius all newborns are screened by the local public health service GGD in cooperation with the Queen Beatrix Medical Centre. In Saba, the GGD will do so together with the Saba Health Care Foundation.

Screening charts containing a tiny amount of blood of newborns are sent to the Netherlands where the screening of seventeen diseases takes place. The neonatal screening aims to detect rare, mostly hereditary diseases in newborns. Timely treatment prevents or limits severe damage to the child’s physical and mental development.

The Daily Herald.

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