Health minister: Five per cent of students screened in 2016-2018 found to be thalassaemia carriers

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said as of November 28, 2019, the Malaysia Thalassaemia Registry recorded 8,681 thalassaemia patients in the country, 7,240 of whom still alive and receiving treatment, while 130 had fully recovered from the condition through stem cell treatment. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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PUTRAJAYA, Jan 27 — Five per cent or one in every 20 Form Four students screened between 2016 and 2018 are thalassaemia carriers, Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said.

According to the minister, throughout the period, a total of 689,460 Form Four students were screened and 31,716 of them were found to be carriers of thalassaemia.

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He said 86.2 per cent of parents had given permission for their children to undergo thalassaemia screenings at school since the programme was introduced to all fourth formers in 2016.

Dr Adham said as of November 28, 2019, the Malaysia Thalassaemia Registry recorded 8,681 thalassaemia patients in the country, 7,240 of whom still alive and receiving treatment, while 130 had fully recovered from the condition through stem cell treatment.

“The thalassaemia prevention effort is crucial to enable the number of thalassaemia patients to be reduced as the treatment for the disease is very costly,” he said when launching the ‘NowyouSEEme’ Thalassaemia Awareness Campaign 2021 virtually today.

Dr Adham explained that those living with thalassemia are unable to produce normal red blood cells, causing their red blood cell functions to be impaired, and they need regular blood transfusions.

“Thalassaemia patients are prone to other complications if they fail to comply with the treatment regimen and specialist observation,” he said.

Dr Adham said those who were aware of their thalassaemia status should function as an agent of change to educate their close family members on the importance of undergoing screenings for the sake of their future generations.

Deputy Education Minister Muslimin Yahaya who also participated in the virtual launch of the campaign said 373,650 fourth formers are expected to be screened for thalassaemia this year.

“Although the screening programme at school has been implemented since 2016, extensive publicity to parents is still needed to raise their awareness to allow their children to be screened,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senior Principal Assistant Director of School Health Sector, Dr Don Ismail Mohamed, in a press conference after the launch said, the fourth formers were selected as they did not have to sit for major examinations and, pathologically, the blood count parameters of individual aged 16 years and above are similar to those of adults.

However, he said the screenings cannot be made mandatory to all students as it is a hereditary disease and parents’ permission is still required for individuals below 18 years old. — Bernama

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