Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Three years see 52,211 premarital health screenings in UAE

22 Feb 2011, The Gulf Today

HUNDREDS of UAE residents who underwent mandatory premarital medical examinations during the last three years were found suffering from various genetic disorders, infectious diseases and other health risks, revealed the health ministry on Monday.
A total of 52,211 screenings were conducted for nine types of infectious and genetic diseases since the law on premarital screening and counselling was made mandatory by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in 2008, a top health official said.
However, the health ministry was reluctant to reveal statistics on the people who are suffering from contagious infections or genetic disorders found during the compulsory medical examinations for the couples.
Dr Muna Al Kawari, director of Central Primary Healthcare Department at the MoH, said that about 14,368 medical screenings were conducted in the initial year 2008 and 19,285 in 2009, while the number of tests decreased to 18,558 last year.
“The medical examinations for the  infectious and genetic diseases are conducted at primary health centres in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah,” she added.
According to her, the integrated premarital medical examination is aimed at eradicating risks of transmitting such genetic diseases from parents-to-offspring or spreading infectious diseases between partners.
“The infectious and sexually transmitted diseases that come under the screening procedures include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis and the tests for inherited blood disorders include blood grouping and RH factor, Beta Thalassaemia, Sickle Cell Anaemia and Hermoglobinopathies, as well as German Measles (Rubella) immunity status,” said Dr Al Kawari.
“The premarital testing will prevent about 60 per cent of congenital anomalies and about 100 per cent of common inherited blood disorders like Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Anaemia, in addition to preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases to the partner,” she indicated.
“The tests also reduce mother-to-child transmission of some infectious diseases that might lead to congenital anomalies or mental retardation and in some cases death,” she added.
The UAE citizens have to pay Dhs100 and expatriates Dhs250 to undergo the compulsory premarital screening and counselling and the investigation report is ready within a week.
According to the information provided by the MoH, the report of Arab Centre for Genetic Studies revealed in 2007 that the number of hereditary diseases in the UAE reached to 240 diseases of which 82 diseases result from consanguineous marriages.
“About 50 per cent of the marriages in the country are consanguineous, out of which 26 per cent are first degree marriages. Hereditary blood diseases are the most common among genetic disorders in the UAE community,” it said.