There is not much threat to patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) due to COVID-19 with two people (in their 40s) in all having lost their lives in Oman in the last few months. SCD patients are in no particular risk now compared to others times.
This was revealed at the first-ever Sickle Cell Disease Media Event held in a virtual conference organised by Novartis on Monday.
At the event, ten experts from the Gulf region presented insights and analysis of SCD.
Salam Salim al Kindi, professor and consultant haematologist at the Department of Haematology, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, said that though it is not clear whether SCD and COVID-19 have any direct or indirect links, it has been observed in Oman that the mortality rate of people with SCD has reduced in the last few months.
“There have been two deaths in Oman. I think the reasons are that people are forced to stay indoors and hence there is less exhaustion for SCD patients. There is more home food and less exposure to outdoors,” he said.
He added that there are almost 8,000 patients with SCD in Oman.
“It is sad that the life expectancy of people reduces due to SCD. There are about 120 to 150 patients every year.”
SCD is one of the most common chronic blood disorders in the world.
Globally, around 300,000 babies are born with the disease annually, while 300mn people carry the trait.
The Gulf region has a high prevalence rate of SCD with more cases found in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain.
Dr Thuraya al Hosni, president of Oman Hereditary Blood Disorder Association, said, “The pain of Sickle Cell Disease is indescribable; it is like having a hammer knocking your bones the hardest you can with increasing frequency. It is a very terrible pain. For a woman though, this pain is only 20 per cent of labour pain.”
She said people grappling with SCD also face social stigma.
“They need painkillers like morphine, which they find difficult to get as people think seeking these drugs is a sin.”
Dr Thuraya said SCD impacts every part of the body, including bones and eyes.
“We need a holistic approach to resolve the issue. Many young people are losing their lives and we need to take the right steps to tackle SCD as well as the social stigma attached to it.”