Why is newborn screening important?
Newborn screening identifies conditions that can affect a child’s long-term health or survival. Early detection, diagnosis, and intervention can prevent death or disability. With a simple blood test, doctors can check for rare genetic, hormone-related, and metabolic conditions that can cause serious health problems.
What conditions are newborns screened for at AKUH Nairobi?
Congenital Hypothyroidism (CH) can lead to mental retardation if not identified and treated within the first few weeks of birth. This test is usually ordered on the 5th day of life.
CH is a disorder which if screened for in every newborn has a high benefit-to-risk ratio.
And how do vaccines work?
Vaccines stimulate the body’s immune system to make antibodies which provide protection against many diseases. Vaccination is the safest way to protect children against infectious diseases.
Once they have been vaccinated, they should have the ability to fight off the diseases that they have been vaccinated against. Vaccines are therefore very important in reducing infant and child mortality.
What vaccines are recommended for children up to the age of 5 years?
BCG is given at birth to prevent tuberculosis (TB). This disease is very infectious and mainly affects the lungs. It is a major cause of death worldwide but can be prevented by vaccination.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that may lead to paralysis and death. The polio vaccine which helps to prevent this disease is administered at birth, six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks of life. Additional boosters are given at 18 months and five years.
Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause chronic liver infection, liver failure as well as liver cancer. Hepatitis B vaccine is administered at birth, six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks of life.
The Pneumococcus organism may cause pneumonia which affects the lungs as well as meningitis which affects the brain. This vaccine is given at six weeks, 10 weeks, 14 weeks and a booster dose at 15 months of life.
Infection with Diptheria may lead to complications such as swelling of the heart muscle, heart failure, coma, paralysis and death. The vaccine to prevent Diptheria is given at six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks of life with a booster being administered at 18 months of life. A further booster is recommended at five years of life.
Tetanus infection may lead to stiffness in the neck and abdominal muscles, difficulty in swallowing, muscle spasms as well as death. The vaccine to prevent this illness is given at six, 10 and 14 weeks of life with boosters being at eighteen months of life and five years of life.
Infection with Pertussis may lead to severe cough (whopping in nature), runny nose, apnea (a pause in breathing in infants) Pneumonia (infection in the lungs) as well as death. Pertussis vaccine is given at six, 10 and 14 weeks of life with boosters being administered at 18 months as well as five years of life.
Dr Syama is a Consultant Paediatrician at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi