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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Carl Kanefsky, Communications Director
(302) 255-9047, Pager

Date: April 7, 2011


Newborn Screening Is Disease Prevention

The Delaware Division of Public Health's (DPH) Newborn Screening Program (NSP) currently screens all newborn babies for over 37 rare health disorders which if left untreated could cause developmental delay, serious medical problems, or even death. In 2011, the NSP will add Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) to the newborn screening panel. Disease prevention should start as early in life as possible.

SCID is a group of disorders characterized by a deficiency of the immune system, affecting approximately one in 100,000 newborns. Infants affected by SCID develop recurrent infections leading to death in early childhood. Treatment in the first months after birth can prolong life and prevent infections. The newborn screening test that suggests the presence of SCID can also detect a number of other congenital disorders of the immune system. Babies with these disorders may appear well at birth.

Recently the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services advisory committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (SACHDNC) recommended that states add SCID testing to their newborn screening panel. The Delaware Newborn Screening Program Advisory Committee endorsed this recommendation with the support of national organizations, parents of children with SCID, and pediatricians. The DPH Director agreed to the recommendations on February 22, 2011. SCID testing will begin in the DPH laboratory pending staff training, equipment delivery and the implementation of supporting data systems.

"My husband and I are thrilled that no child born with SCID in Delaware will have to die or suffer lifelong disabilities like our daughter because of a late diagnosis", said Donna Sawyer, a parent of a child with SCID and an advocate for SCID testing implementation.

"The mission of DPH is to promote and protect the lives of all people in Delaware. The earlier we prevent the onset or consequences of disease, the better." said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director.

"I recently toured the Delaware Public Health Lab in Smyrna and was awed by the work being done by the dedicated professionals in the Newborn Screening Program," said Governor Jack Markell. "I applaud the program for adding another test that could help save lives and money for the people of our state."

Disease prevention produces costs savings to the health care system. For every $1 spent on newborn screening it is estimated that between $2 and $4 are saved. The savings are primarily in reduced medical care costs and in the reduced requirement for special education for children who otherwise would have been disabled.

For more information about the DPH NSP, visit at

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.