DNIS News Network -- May 8 was World Thalassaemia Day, an important event for millions of sufferers in India.
Hospitals around the country used the day to increase awareness of the disease and to encourage people to give blood to help children with thalassaemia.
Blood donation is vital for thalassaemia patients, who require a minimum of one blood transfusion every month. Even then the cost is beyond the means of 90% of patients. The only cure is a bone-marrow transplant, which is an option only for a very small minority.
World Thalassaemia Day was the perfect opportunity for health workers and NGOs to draw attention to the plight of sufferers and to spread awareness of the disease and how it can be prevented.
The figures are striking; thalassaemia is India's most common hereditary disease, with about 8,000 affected babies born each year. The country has 30 million carriers, an estimated 15% of the world's total.
However, it is largely a hidden disease as carriers are symptomless and will not know the risk unless they are tested. If two parents are both carriers, there is a 25% chance of any of their offspring being born with the disease.
Thalassaemics India, a Delhi-based society of parents and doctors, hopes that increased awareness will persuade couples to be tested in advance of getting married or having children. This is the surest way of reducing the incidence of children born with the disease.