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The Virginia Sickle Cell Awareness Program

The Virginia Sickle Cell Awareness Program

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is one of the most common genetic disorders in the United States primarily affecting African-Americans. In Virginia, sickle cell disease is the most prevalent disorder identified by newborn screening tests. Approximately 75 newborns are identified each year through newborn screening.


Sickle cell disease causes red blood cells to function abnormally, becoming rigid and curving into a sickle-like shape. The sickle shape makes it difficult for the cells to pass through tiny blood vessels, resulting in painful blockages that prevent vital oxygen and nutrients in the blood from reaching organs and tissues. These blockages can result in tissue damage, severe recurrent pain, strokes, organ damage and other serious medical complications.


Sickle cell disease primarily affects those of African descent, but also is found in people who trace their ancestry to South and Central America, the Middle East, India, Italy, Greece and Turkey.


There is no universal cure for sickle cell disease, but new treatments and preventive therapies have improved the life expectancy and quality of life for people with the disorder.


Quick Facts

  • In Virginia, one in 325 babies born to African-American parents is affected by Sickle Cell Disease.
  • It is estimated that more than 115,000 Virginian's have sickle cell trait, meaning they do not have the disease but are carriers of the disorder.
  • When a mother and father both have the sickle cell trait, there is a 25 percent chance that their child will have sickle cell disease.
  • It is estimated that 2,500 to 4,500 Virginians are living with sickle cell disease.
  • September officially became National Sickle Cell Awareness Month when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution introduced by the Congressional Black Caucus in 1983. Since its official recognition, the month has been dedicated to events that raise awareness and understanding about the disease.

The state health department's sickle cell awareness programs provide information about the disorder to the public and health care professionals and offers screening, referral, counseling and follow-up services to Virginians at risk for sickle cell disease.


Public Service Announcements

Radio PSA

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TV PSA

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Last Updated: 09-18-2013

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