By Chioma Obinna

For decades, many disease conditions have been given various spiritual interpretations in this part of the world. Disease conditions such as sickle cell anaemia are said to be linked to what is known as ogbanje (evil child) in Igbo language and abiku in the Yoruba speaking part of Nigeria.

These children are seen as bad luck to the families in which they are born. Most of the unlucky ones are thrown into the evil forest out of ignorance.

Thanks to medical advances, such things no longer exist in most part of the country. Today, science has proved that Sickle Cell Disorder is one of those health conditions. According to medical experts, SCD disease is an inherited disorder in which red blood cells are abnormally shaped.

This abnormality can result in painful episodes, serious infections, chronic anemia, and damage to body organs.

Fortunately, with advancements in early diagnosis and treatment, most children born with this disorder grow up to live relatively healthy and productive lives.

Despite massive awareness on the right treatment that such children should receive, it is sad to note that most parents go through childbirth painfully and still lose the child within few months or years.

However, experts are more concern now, on how to prevent such deaths and in the event that such a child is brought into the world, how best to care for him or her.

The experts say the different forms of sickle cell disease are determined by the genes inherited from the person’s parents. Someone who inherits a sickle cell gene from each parent has haemoglobin SS disease, also called sickle cell anaemia.

A person can also inherit a sickle cell gene from one parent and a different kind of abnormal gene from the other and end up with a different form of sickle cell disease, such as hemoglobin SC disease or hemoglobin S beta thalassemia.

Someone who inherits only one sickle cell gene and a normal gene from the other parent will have the sickle cell trait, but not the disease. A blood test can determine whether someone has a form of sickle cell disease or carries the sickle cell trait.

People with sickle cell trait don’t have sickle cell disease or exhibit any signs of the disorder, but they can pass the gene for the disease to their children. When both parents have the sickle cell trait, there is a 25 per cent chance that a child will have sickle cell disease.

But when one parent is carrying the trait and the other actually has the disease, the odds increase to 50 per cent that their child will inherit the disease.

To prevent such situations, experts are advocating the need for people to know their genotype before marriage. Although it is not wrong to fall in love, they say, it is the only way out to save the yet to be born children a lifetime of pain.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.