Senior Pediatrician Prof. Dr. Salma Sheikh addresses a press conference at Hyderabad Press Club. — Courtesy Photo

HYDERABAD, April 8 - Thalassaemia is on rise in Pakistan and the statistics indicate that about three to four thousand children are born with a more virulent form of the disease, called Thalassaemia major every year.

Prominent paediatrician and Professor of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) Dr. Salma Shaikh informed this while talking to APP here on Monday.

She informed that the carrier rate has also risen to about six percent of the population and this figure could increase further if preventive measures were not adopted with seriousness.

According to statistics, she informed that annually an estimated 6,000 Thalassaemic children are born in the country, of them 60 to 70 per cent succumb to Hepatitis- B or Hepatitis-C and die before reaching the age of 10.

About Thalassaemia, she said that it is a blood disorder and a common inherited disease with no cure, except bone marrow transplantation and a costly procedure entailing certain risks.Most of the patients of the genetic disorder have to endure blood transfusion for life, however, it could be controlled through prenatal diagnoses, she said adding that mostly the disease prevails because of marriages among close relatives, and that reinforces the chances of children of parents with a similar genetic make-up, being born with it.

The women with three months pregnancy should be brought to Thalassaemia Centre for test, she said and emphasised the need of launching a massive campaign for the prevention of Thalassaemia. She observed that there were 25 per cent chances of having 'Thalassaemia major' in every pregnancy in case two Thalassaemia carriers got married.

Dr. Salma said with the spotlight on blood- borne diseases like Hepatitis C and Hepatitis-B, there is a general tendency in the country to ignore the threats of Thalassaemia.

She said that there has been little attempt to educate people on the threats and inconvenience associated with Thalassaemia. Along with other health problems it entails lifelong transfusions with all the risks of disease- causing germs being transmitted to patients.

It was also said that, Thalassaemia-afflicted patients across all age groups run higher risk of contacting infectious diseases as they have to receive regular blood transfusions in addition to being exposed to the regular risk factors that may cause infections.

In the small number of cases where a cure may be possible through bone marrow transplantation, she said that treatment is prohibitively costly and thus out of the reach of even the middle class strata of society.

Dr. Salma expressed her concern over poor response of the government to the burgeoning threat. There are few Thalassaemia Centres in the country. If more centre are established in the country at government level, the number of children born with the disease could be controlled, she said.

Dr. Salma Shaikh said that due to rising incidence of the disease in the country, the government should do well to make parental testing for the fatal disease part of the pre-natal tests, which the health ministry regularly advocates through the mass media.

She informed that these tests should be available to the general public at subsidised rates at the government hospitals, so that a large section of people can benefit from this preventive measure.

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