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World Thalassemia Day

Last updated May 7, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH


Thalassemia is an inherited autosomal recessive blood disorder, meaning two copies of the gene carrying Thalassemia must be present to develop the condition.

 World Thalassemia Day is observed each year on May 8th. The World Health Organization established this observance day to bring public awareness to this blood disease and the preventative measures that should be taken to inhibit its transmission. The theme for 2015 is “Enhancing partnership towards patient-centered health systems: good health adds life to years!”

What is Thalassemia?

Thalassemia is an inherited autosomal recessive blood disorder, meaning two copies of the gene carrying Thalassemia must be present to develop the condition. There are several types of Thalassemia including alpha, beta major, beta minor, and delta. The disorder causes damage and weakening of red blood cells and negatively impacts the process of hemoglobin formation in the body. Hemoglobin is the molecule present in blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Without proper hemoglobin formation, individuals with Thalassemia develop mild or severe anemia. Having thalassemia can also lead to bone deformities, heart illnesses or palpitations, jaundice, delayed puberty, and expanded liver, spleen, and bones of the cheeks or forehead.

Approximately 1,000 people in the United States are affected by Thalassemia and there are an unknown number of carriers of the disease. The condition is often seen in children ages 1 or 2 years. Mild Thalassemia may not show any signs and symptoms and thus is not diagnosed until a complete blood count and CBC blood test is completed. In order to maintain normal levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, several treatment options include blood transfusions, iron chelation therapy, blood and bone marrow stem cell transplantation, and B group vitamin supplements.

Although Thalassemia cannot be prevented, its transmission can be lessened by early detection in prenatal tests before childbirth. It is strongly advised that individuals who carry the Thalassemia gene meet with a genetic counselor in order to receive proper treatment before pregnancy or to learn about the preventive measures to avoid passing the gene onto a child.  

This important day is celebrated to help those suffering from Thalassemia and the complications it brings to their lives.  It serves to commemorate the patients who are no longer living, and those who continue to fight for a better quality of life. 

For more information and to learn about special events in your area, click here.


World Thalassemia Day.Retrieved from http://www.indiacelebrating.com/events/world-thalassemia-day/

(2013 May 6). International Thalassemia Day: Pop Quiz. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/features/thalassemiadayquiz/

(2015 Feb 17). Facts About Thalassemia.Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/thalassemia/facts.html

International Thalassemia Day. Retrieved from http://www.thalassaemia.org.cy/communication-awareness/international-thalassaemia-day.shtml

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 7, 2015
Last updated: May 7, 2015