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Department Of Public Health To Test For New Genetic Disorder In Newborns

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  Babies born in Illinois are already tested for dozens of disorders. Now the state public health department is adding more to that list.

Newborns will be tested for SCID, a rare genetic disorder that makes babies especially susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.

Every baby born in the state of Illinois gets a tiny pinprick on the heel of their foot. The blood drawn is then sent to an Illinois Department of Public Health lab, where it's tested for dozens of genetic disorders.

The newest among these is SCID; the acronym stands for severe combined immunodeficiency.

It's virtually undetectable, but if a baby with SCID happens upon a bacterial or viral infection, he or she would have a very hard time fighting it off, often leading to death.

Tom Schafer, with the Department of Public Health, says while SCID is extremely rare — 10 or so babies in Illinois each year — it's worth the test.

"It can be life-threatening, can cause a lot of other problems, so by us being able to detect this early on, get treatment started, we can save this child and they can live a normal, happy life," he said.

The other 40 tests, Schafer says, detect genetic disorders in about 350 children yearly. He says says while the disorders newborns are tested for are usually rare, catching and treating them early beats paying the price down the line.

"You're going to see developmental delays, mental illness, a lot of costs dealing with the care of that child for their lifetime," he said.

The mandatory panel of tests is an $88 fee, tacked onto the cost of birth.

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capitol News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at WILL-AM/FM, Law360, Capitol Fax and The Daily Line before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.
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