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Message from the State Health Officer

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Know the Importance of Newborn Screening

September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month, a time to celebrate newborn screening and the many lives that it has improved, or even saved. In Alabama, newborn screening has been a part of the Alabama Department of Public Health for more than 50 years. It began in 1965 with a single test for phenylketonuria (PKU) and expanded, so that today we screen for 30 primary conditions that can cause disability and death without appropriate, early treatment.

The majority of conditions are identified through the blood spot screen, where a sample of blood is taken at 24–48 hours of age by sticking an infant’s heel and applying several drops on a specialized filter paper for testing at the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL); however, the hearing screen and the pulse oximetry screen are performed at the hospital prior to discharge. The hearing screen is a simple, non-invasive procedure which detects potential hearing loss, and the non-invasive pulse oximetry screen is performed by checking oxygen levels in the hand and the foot in order to identify potential critical congenital heart defects.

By the end of 2016, the BCL anticipates being able to screen for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease (SCID), a condition which affects the immune system, leaving affected infants vulnerable to fatal infections in the first year of life if they do not receive appropriate treatment.

Through partnerships with pediatric specialists throughout Alabama, we ensure that infants with positive screens for a condition receive appropriate diagnostic testing and follow-up care in a timely manner. These partnerships allow for rapid identification and treatment of an affected infant, which minimizes and/or prevents life- altering complications.

For more information on the Newborn Screening Program, please visit our website at adph.org/newbornscreening or call (866) 928-6755.

Thomas M. Miller, M.D.
State Health Officer

(September 2016)

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