Starting on the Right Foot|
Ten fingers. Ten toes. Mom’s eyes. Dad’s smile. There are certain things you can tell about a newborn baby at first sight. But before parents bring their son or daughter home from the hospital, infants must be screened for serious conditions that aren’t apparent at birth.
More than 10 million Americans are symptomless carriers of the defective gene that causes CF, and most carriers are unaware of a family history of the disease. Cystic fibrosis can go undetected for years, as some babies with CF will not display any symptoms.
Still, in 2005, only five states required that cystic fibrosis be included in newborn screening tests. Research shows early diagnosis and treatment results in better health and longer life for people with CF. To ensure all babies are screened for CF, the Foundation and its volunteers nationwide have advocated aggressively for each state to add CF to their newborn screening panels.
Thanks to their combined efforts and the support of national interest groups and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, newborn screening for CF was rapidly adopted nationwide. This summer, the two hold out states — Texas and Connecticut — passed CF newborn screening legislation. By 2010, all 50 states and the District of Columbia will routinely screen all newborns for CF.
While those living with CF will not benefit personally from this new legislation, it provides a distinct “foot” up for those born with CF today and in the days ahead. Infants diagnosed as a result of newborn screening may experience benefits of early treatment, including:
- Improved overall physical status, including increased weight and height;
- Immediate nutritional intervention with specialized therapies such as pancreatic enzymes;
- Increased respiratory and cognitive function;
- Fewer hospitalizations; and
- Improved and extended life expectancy.
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