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Glen Ellis: COVID-19 and Sickle Cell Disease | Health



September was Sickle Cell Month, and COVID-19 gave more urgent need for recognition than ever before.

The CDC issued this statement two weeks ago. People of all ages with a particular underlying illness point out that they are at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19. At first glance, like everything else about COIVD-19, Black / African Americans are much more burdened because they relate to people with sickle cell disease. Thirty years ago, the population of sickle cell anemia in the United States was estimated to be 32,000-50,000.

Currently, assessing the national number of SCD patients with sickle cell disease is an all-practical purpose because there is no coordinated system of data collection and reporting of prevalence and mortality from this disease. Is impossible. Sadly, because of this, the number of individuals who died of sickle cell disease, died of sickle cell disease, or even the number of unreported individuals is unknown.

A study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine dating back to 2010 found that the average age of death in 2006 (39 years) and the proportion of individuals alive to 45 (35%) was the proportion of individuals alive (50%) in 1994. Before. This is despite the estimated health care improvements in this country.

Many of us do not understand that sickle cell disease is a genetic condition. Those who have it inherit certain genes in their blood from their parents. If the child inherits the sickle cell gene from their respective parents, they have sickle cell disease. When a child inherits the sickle cell gene from one parent and the normal hemoglobin gene from the other parent has sickle cell characteristics rather than sickle cell disease. Most people with the characteristics of sickle cells are asymptomatic, but they can pass the gene to their child. Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects not only black / African Americans in the United States, but also ancestors in sub-Saharan Africa, the Western Hemisphere (South America, the Caribbean, Central America), and some Mediterranean countries. Gives.

Symptoms and complications of sickle cell disease vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. However, the sick person inherited a mutation that changes red blood cells from a round shape to a sickle shape (a process called the “sickle”). Healthy round red blood cells can easily move through blood vessels and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. However, sickle cells cannot flow through blood vessels so easily. They can clog, block blood flow, block oxygen delivery, damage blood vessels, and cause inflammation.

Symptoms of sickle cell disease include abdominal pain, bone pain, shortness of breath, stunted growth, fatigue, fever, and chest pain. Bone marrow transplants have the potential to cure the disease. If not, treatment focuses on symptom management.

People with exacerbated cough, dyspnea, or fever with sickle cell disease due to other infections that may affect people living with sickle cells (including pneumonia and acute chest syndrome).

Mary T., a doctor during the American Human Rights Movement, protested the fact that research, screening, and treatment of sickle cell disease were largely or completely unfunded and ignored because most of the patients were Africans. Main thanks to Dr. Bassett American descent. As a result, one of the outcomes of the civil rights movement was the enactment of the Sickle Cell Anemia Act in 1972. Since then, public awareness of hereditary diseases has increased and funding has increased to find treatments for them. disease. Currently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends about $ 100 million annually on sickle cell disease research.

According to the NIH, Case Western Reserve Medical School and University Hospital said, “The only treatment for sickle cell disease is bone marrow transplantation, a procedure in which patients receive bone marrow from healthy, genetically compatible sibling donors. However, transplantation is too risky for many adults, and only about 18% of children with this disease have healthy sibling donors. “

As a result of many years of research, there are some very promising hopes. Jennelle Stephenson, 28, a young African-American woman born with sickle cell disease, recovered completely after receiving gene therapy as part of a key NIH clinical trial to cure the disease. .. This is really exciting news!

On the other hand, keep in mind that patients with sickle cell disease are particularly vulnerable. There is a duty to ensure that sickle cell disease is protected and that you receive the best care.

COVID-19 can cause severe inflammation and damage to the lungs. If you have a group of sickle cell disease, a hereditary red blood cell disorder, this can come at a greater cost.

Be sure to keep enough water, wash your hands frequently, and avoid close contact with others who have symptoms of respiratory infections!

Glen Ellis, MPH, is a Research Bioethics Fellow at Harvard Medical College and author of “Which Doctor?”. And “information is the best medicine.” Ellis is an active media contributor to health fairness and medical ethics. To see better health information:


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