The Sickle Cell Advocacy and Management Initiative (SAMI) has advised those suffering from Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD) to eat right and adhere to precautionary measures to avoid contracting infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
Its Founder, Ms Toyin Adeshola, also the Chairman, Coalition of Sickle Cell Non-Governmental Organisations in Nigeria, gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Awka to mark the World Sickle Cell Day.
NAN reports that World Sickle Cell Awareness Day is observed every June 19 to raise awareness about the red blood cell disorder and raise funds to fight it and support persons living with the disorder.
Adeshola noted that people living with sickle cell disease were categorised as high risk because they have a high tendency of having a severe disease if they ever contract COVID-19 regardless of their ages.
According to her, majority of people living with sickle cell disease are immuned compromised – the reason they have a low immunity.
“The Spleen is an organ which is part of the body’s immune system. It is called a blood filter. It helps in the clearance of microorganisms that cause infections amidst other functions.
“In sickle cell disease, the abnormal sickled red blood cells that occlude blood vessels also impair blood supply to the spleen making it malfunction and causing it to die – splenic infarction.
“It starts by scarring then, it shrinks and stops functioning. Majority of sickle cell patients lose their spleen before the age of seven.
“So, the absent spleen or malfunctioning spleen as the case may be, is responsible for the low immunity in sickle cell disease,” she said.
Adeshola, however, urged sickle cell patients to eat balanced diets, take their routine drugs, imbibe physical distancing, avoid crowded places, wear their face masks and maintain good and regular hygiene to avoid getting infected.
“Since patients of sickle cell disorder are vulnerable, they need to be extra cautious and stay safe.
“They should visit the hospital when they experience those painful episodes, known as crises.
“Parents, family members, friends and caregivers should also be there to give them emotional and mental support to stay healthy and alive,” she said.
While advising patients to live a fulfilled life, Adeshola noted that being a carrier of ‘SS’ genotype was not a death sentence, with adequate management and positive mindset.
She then called for intensified awareness of the disorder to reduce the burden of the disease in the country.