Thursday, March 23, 2023

In September, honor the Jewish New Year and Tay-Sachs Awareness Month: Prioritize your health with JScreen.

(Courtesy of JScreen) Shari Ungerleider and Myra Sack have one thing in common: They both lost a child to Tay-Sachs disease. For Shari, 24 years have passed since she lost her precious son Evan, while Myra lost her beautiful daughter Havi in 2021. It is hard to believe that, after all these years, babies are still born with Tay-Sachs and other devastating genetic diseases. The challenge is ensuring that future families don’t have to suffer. The solution is simple: accurate, comprehensive screening and personalized genetic counseling.

Both Shari and Myra are vocal advocates of genetic screening and making sure testing is done properly. To accomplish their goals, they have teamed up with JScreen, a national nonprofit public health initiative dedicated to preventing Jewish and other genetic diseases and educating communities about the importance of screening the right way. This month (Tay-Sachs Awareness Month and Rosh Hashanah), JScreen hopes to raise awareness about genetic screening so that every family can plan for both a happy new year and a healthy future.

Shari said: “I wanted to find a way to honor Evan and keep his memory alive. I decided to turn our tragedy into something positive so that other families would be spared the suffering that we experienced by raising awareness about the importance of carrier screening.”

Myra said: “Losing Havi changed everything for our family. It’s impossible to walk through the world unchanged after losing a child. JScreen is a community with compassionate leadership, cutting-edge science, and most importantly, the power to save lives. It’s a community that every couple considering having children should lean on.”

That is where JScreen shines, as it makes genetic testing simple, accessible and affordable by offering easy-to-use, at-home saliva test kits. The JScreen ReproGEN test gives prospective parents a deep understanding of their risk of having a child with a genetic disease. Designed for individuals between 18-45, the ReproGEN panel tests for over 200 genetic diseases, including Tay-Sachs and other diseases commonly found in the Jewish population as well as other ethnic groups. If a carrier couple is identified, JScreen provides them with telehealth genetic counseling to discuss their results and options available for family planning.

What Is Tay-Sachs Disease?

Tay-Sachs disease is a rare, inherited genetic disease mainly affecting infants and young children. Babies born with Tay-Sachs disease usually develop normally for the first few months, but as the disease progresses, they begin to regress, due to the absence of the enzyme HexA, which causes excessive accumulation of specific lipids in the brain and nerve cells, resulting in progressive neurological damage. The children become blind and deaf, suffer from seizures, and have respiratory issues. Children with Tay-Sachs often die before the age of 5.

Please visit JScreen.org for more information or to get tested.

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