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Illinois adds Spinal Muscular Atrophy to newborn testing, starting Monday

Angelique Beeks of Altoona, Pa., checks on her newborn girl, Novah Brionna, at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center's Regional Intensive Care Nursery in Johnstown, Pa., Wednesday, Jan.1, 2020. Novah wasn't expected until Feb.23, but due to her mother's blood pressure complications, was delivered by C-section at 4:37am at 3lbs.- 8oz., making her the Cambria and Somerset County-region's first born of the new year. She is Angelique's fourth child. (John Rucosky/Tribune-Democrat via AP)
Angelique Beeks of Altoona, Pa., checks on her newborn girl, Novah Brionna, at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center's Regional Intensive Care Nursery in Johnstown, Pa., Wednesday, Jan.1, 2020. Novah wasn't expected until Feb.23, but due to her mother's blood pressure complications, was delivered by C-section at 4:37am at 3lbs.- 8oz., making her the Cambria and Somerset County-region's first born of the new year. She is Angelique's fourth child. (John Rucosky/Tribune-Democrat via AP)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Every baby newly born in Illinois will be tested for Spinal Muscular Atrophy starting Monday, state health officials said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said Spinal Muscular Atrophy, known as SMA, is a group of hereditary diseases that destroys motor neurons over time and leads to muscle weakness and atrophy.

“It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the department. “Early diagnosis of babies with SMA can lead to potentially life-saving interventions. By screening every baby born in Illinois, we hope to identify cases early so therapy can begin as soon as possible.”

The department said SMA affects about 1 in 11,000 births. Officials said the early screening can let treatment begin before an infant begins to show symptoms.

Federal authorities in 2018 added SMA to its list of recommended conditions that newborns be screened for. Illinois officials said it took some time to purchase new equipment, develop test methods and alter computer systems to provide laboratory results.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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