A Consultant Hematologist with the Alimosho General Hospital, Dr Adebukola Ali, on Friday, called for more public awareness on the sickle cell disease as the hospital joined others across the globe to celebrate the World Sickle Cell Disease Day.
Speaking at an event organised by the hospital to mark the event, Ali said there is ample need for genetic counselling on reproduction by intending couples, in order to curb the negative experience associated with sickle cell disease in children.
According to her, “Two percent of Nigerians currently live with this disease and 20-30% are carriers of the gene. Hence, there is a need to increase awareness about genotypes among all Nigerians. This should go beyond ordinary knowledge but adequate and detailed information on what genotype is and how it relates to having sickle cell children”.
While emphasising the significance of the World Sickle Cell Disease
Day celebration, the Consultant Hematologist explained that 19th June of every year is dedicated for sensitisation of the sickle cell disease as a Public health problem, reducing stigmatisation of victims and soliciting for funded programmes and research on effective management of the disease.
Ali informed that the disease is an inherited blood cell disease, caused by a defect in the haemoglobin which makes the red blood cell appear in irregular sickle shape with rigid presentation resulting in insufficient oxygen running through it.
“Normal red blood cells are disc-shaped, however, a defect makes it rigid and sickled shaped causing lack of oxygen in the blood. Most times, this irregularity results in inflammation and rapid changes to the body organs. A repeated episode of oxygen constriction causes organ indisposition, like the spleen acting dysfunctional, even as it affects the immune system being low”, Ali explained.
On the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on sickle cell patients
, the Consultant maintained that the rate of contacting it is similar to a normal person, however, considering the low immunity among patients, it could become quite severe.
She submitted that “For sickle cell disease patients, their tendency of reaction is quite higher than normal people because they have dysfunctional body systems. A chronic COVID-19 case, therefore, makes such presentation more complicated and regardless of their age, it puts them in a precarious situation. Thus, there is a need for sickle cell disease patients to be extra cautious at this time”.
The Doctor, therefore, implored sufferers to strictly adhere to physical distancing, while advocating for sunlight exposure to ensure regular Vitamin D supplement as sickle cell patients require Vitamin D for survival, with daily consumption of three litres of water for hydration and prescribed medications prioritised.
Ali admonished family members to adopt preventive measures because they are living with vulnerable members of the public while encouraging early presentation at the hospital when ill.
She said, “Early presentation ensures quick medical intervention in order to prevent the deterioration of the patient’s condition. Alimosho General Hospital, Igando, has a haematology clinic which runs every Wednesday for sickle cell patients. In case of an emergency case, however, such should be presented promptly on every other day”.
The Consultant haematologist enjoined the public to seek for more information on genotypes which are varied from SS, SD and SC before reproduction, advising neonatal screening for intending couples in order to avoid unpleasant experiences associated with managing babies born with sickle cell disease.