(CMR)Annually since 2009, the Cayman Islands has joined the United Nations in observing World Sickle Day on June 19, but this year the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world approaches life and even more so for persons with sickle cell disorder.
The main objective of World Sickle Cell Day is to raise public awareness of the sickle cell disease, a chronic disorder present at birth that is inherited when a child receives two sickle cell genes. Each year, the Public Health Department recommends persons with sickle cell get the flu shot as the disorder is an underlying disease and could result in complications.
For this same reason, considering COVID-19, the Health Services Authority stresses for these persons:
- to practice physical distancing
- to wear a mask or face covering when in public enclosed places
- to wash hands frequently (and for at least 20 seconds with soap and water) or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
- to stay home and leave only if necessary
- to seek medical help if having symptoms
“As the world faces new ways of living due to COVID-19, it is especially important that persons with sickle cell disorder proactively protect themselves when it comes to possible exposure to the virus and other infectious diseases,” said Joy Merren, Genetics Coordinator at the Health Services Authority.
“Eating healthy whole foods, getting adequate sleep, exercising within one’s own limits (remembering to pace oneself), finding time to relax and laugh and finding a safe person to speak with when times are difficult, all help in protecting the body from infectious and environmental insults. The old adage, “Prevention better than cure” holds true in this situation”.
While screening for sickle cell disease in the Cayman Islands has been in place since the early 1970’s for high-risk families, and since the 1980’s for school entry screening, routine newborn screening has been in place since 1997.
This has helped in the early identification of sickle cell trait and disease with appropriate counseling and management. Currently, there are 42 persons in the Cayman Islands with sickle cell disease known to the Public Health Department.
“It is important to test for sickle cell trait as this information can help parents make informed reproductive choices. If someone has the sickle cell trait, it is important to know if one’s partner is also a carrier. If both parents are sickle cell carriers, with each pregnancy, there is a 25% risk of having a child with sickle cell disease,” Mrs. Merren stated.
A sickle cell support group meets three to four times a year.