BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today,
27 Dec 2009
Premarital medical examination blocks transmittance of 60 per cent of congenital abnormalities and almost 100 per cent of hereditary blood disorders, health officials say.
The premarital health screening and counseling process has been made mandatory in the UAE, focusing on medical history of family members of the couples.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) insists that nobody will be able to tie the knot in the UAE, unless they submit a medical certificate to prove that they have undergone comprehensive screening. Both parties are required to undergo the premarital tests and counseling at the same medical centre.
The initiative is aimed at minimising birth defects, risk of genetically transmitted disorders like Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Anaemia as well as contagious diseases including Aids, Syphilis and Hepatitis-B, says a senior health official.
Dr Mohammad Ghalib, Director of the Family Guidance Fund Marriage, said, "Up to 240 varieties of genetically transmitted diseases have been listed by the health ministry. At least 82 of the diseases are results of consanguineous marriages."
"Marriages between blood relatives are estimated at 50 per cent of the total marriages in the UAE. This scenario has caused blood-related diseases to be highly prevalent in the UAE society," he added.
According to him, the procedures will correct misconceptions regarding the existence of a hereditary disease in the family. The counseling will also help couples avoid various psychological, financial and physical burdens. The cost of caring for a child who carries a genetic disorder, is estimated at approximately Dhs3 million during his lifespan.
Dr Ghalib pointed out, "The medical examinations including blood test will draft medical and genetic history of the family, and candidates will be provided expert advice to handle situations like pregnancy or immunisation against certain diseases."
Dr Hanan Mohamed Ali, a member of the premarital counseling and screening body of the Primary Health Care Department in Sharjah Medical Zone said, "The comprehensive medical history of the marriage candidates will be subject to monitoring. Physical examinations and laboratory investigations are also included in the procedures."
"A total of 4,639 young couples have undergone comprehensive premarital medical tests between January and November in the Sharjah Medical Zone," she added.
"Meanwhile, the rate of failed cases in premarital examinations in the region ranges between 400 and 500 people each month," noted Dr Ali.
Dr Zainab Sabri, another member of the premarital medical screening council in Sharjah, noted that the awareness on the significance of health screening prior to getting married, has increased among young generation of the country.
"But the embarrassing aspect of the screening is the disappointment of receiving negative results by any of the two parties as a result of suffering from a genetic disease," she added.
The MoH had revealed that one out of 12 people of the UAE carry hereditary blood disorder named thalassaemia.
Experts say that the condition of the inherited form of anaemia, caused by faulty synthesis of haemoglobin, can be fatal before or just after birth depending on the type of the thalassaemia.
"It can result in varying levels of anaemia and development difficulties. Carriers of the disease will have to undergo blood transfusions," they noted.
The UAE Genetic Diseases Association plans to cover all university students in the UAE, in order to raise awareness among them about the woes of genetic blood disorders that may surface in future.