Annually since 2009, the Cayman Islands has joined the United Nations in observing World Sickle Day on 19 June.
The main objective of World Sickle Cell Day is to raise public awareness of 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 recommends that persons aged 12 years and older with sickle cell disorder receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“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”, said Joy Merren, Genetics Coordinator at the Health Services Authority.
While screening for sickle cell disease in the Cayman Islands has been in place since the early 1970s for high-risk families, and since the 1980s 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 counselling and management. Currently, there are 45 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. The next meeting is set for Tuesday, 22 June 2021 at 5:30 pm at the Women’s Health Waiting Room at the Health Services Authority, main campus. Dr. Anna Matthews will lead the discussion. All are invited.