UAB and Birmingham Jewish Federation and Foundation offer genetic screening

One in four Jewish individuals of Central and Eastern European descent is a carrier for at least one of 19 preventable genetic disorders, many of which strike in childhood, have no cure and can lead to an early death. 

On Jan. 13, 2013, the Levite Jewish Community Center, 3960 Montclair Road in Birmingham, will hold a community-wide screening from 11:00.a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for potential carriers of these genetic disorders. 

The Birmingham Jewish Federation and Foundation host this screening in partnership with the National Victor Center for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia and UAB’s Department of Genetics. Lane Rutledge, M.D., professor in Genetics, and Katie Nelson, a genetics counselor, will provide genetic counseling.

Individuals are encouraged to pre-register online and may obtain information regarding insurance coverage and costs at www.victorcenters.org.

The Victor Center recommends that all at-risk individuals – including interfaith couples and couples getting pregnant through donor egg/sperm – should be screened, with the Jewish partner being screened first. Individuals with one or more Jewish grandparents are considered at risk. Couples should be screened prior to each pregnancy for any new diseases – since there have been new advances in testing; the list of known genetic diseases is constantly being expanded.

In the past, prospective parents had no way of knowing whether they were carriers of a genetic disease that could threaten the health and life of their children – until it was too late and a child became sick. Now, a simple blood test is all that is necessary to screen for the Jewish genetic disease panel of 19 conditions. 

“The importance of being screened goes far beyond just finding out if you are a carrier,” said Caren Seligman, Outreach Director at the Birmingham Jewish Federation and coordinator of this project. “This affects the life of an entire family. We are fortunate to be able to test for 19 known diseases that are preventable with a simple blood test. This is a critical public health issue for the Jewish community and we are proud to be partnering with the Victor Center in creating awareness and hosting a screening in Birmingham.”

For more information, please contact Seligman at CarenS@bjf.org, 205-803-1521or visit www.victorcenters.org.