World Thalassemia Day to be observed today

ISLAMABAD: World Thalassemia Day will be observed today (Thursday) across the world including Pakistan to spread awareness about the genetic disease.

To mark the day civil society, doctors and experts will hold walks and seminars. The basic purpose of organizing the walk and seminars is to mark “World Thalassemia Day”.

The theme of 2014 is: “Economic Recession: Observe–Joint Forces–Safeguard Health”.

Thalassemia is a hereditary disease of the blood caused by genetic defects in the patient’s body which result in production of an abnormal form of hemoglobin, thus causing anemia. It is a genetic blood disorder in which children cannot make enough Red Blood Cells and needs to be supplemented with RBC transfusions every 2-3 weeks to stay healthy and to survive.

It is actually a group of inherited diseases of the blood that affect a person’s ability to produce hemoglobin, resulting in anemia. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen and nutrients to cells in the body. About 100,000 babies worldwide are born with severe forms of thalassemia each year. Thalassemia occurs most frequently in people of Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Southern Asian and African ancestry.

The two main types of thalassemia are called “alpha” and “beta,” depending on which part of an oxygen-carrying protein in the red blood cells is lacking. Both types of thalassemia are inherited in the same manner. The disease is passed to children by parents who carry the mutated thalassemia gene. A child who inherits one mutated gene is a carrier, which is sometimes called “thalassemia trait.” Most carriers lead completely normal, healthy lives.

A child who inherits two thalassemia trait genes – one from each parent – will have the disease. A child of two carriers has a 25 percent chance of receiving two trait genes and developing the disease, and a 50 percent chance of being a thalassemia trait carrier.

Most individuals with alpha thalassemia have milder forms of the disease, with varying degrees of anemia. The most severe form of alpha thalassemia, which affects mainly individuals of Southeast Asian, Chinese and Filipino ancestry, results in fetal or newborn death.

A child who inherits two copies of the mutated gene for beta thalassemia will have beta thalassemia disease. The child can have a mild form of the disease, known as thalassemia intermedia, which causes milder anemia that rarely requires transfusions.