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A Call For More Newborn Screening

Many diseases in newborn babies are treatable and, often times, curable, but babies aren't always tested.

The March of Dimes released their annual newborn screening report card today, tallying how many babies live in places where newborns are automatically screened for 29 serious conditions.

March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer Howse discussed the need for mandatory newborn screening across the U.S. on Wednesday's The Early Show.

The conditions involved in newborn screening are rare, but can be very severe. These tests are important because each of the 29 conditions on the March of Dimes list is either curable or highly treatable as long as it is found within 48 hours after birth.

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The test is a blood sample done by pricking the baby's heel. In states and hospitals where this test isn't mandatory, it will cost $100 to $150 if your insurance doesn't already cover it.

The diseases that the March of Dimes calls to be tested for are mostly genetic diseases, such as PKU. PKU is an enzyme deficiency and can have terrible consequences if it's not detected early.

Howse said, "If (PKU) is not corrected, then toxins build up in the baby's system and it can be fatal, or it can result in something really terrible like severe mental retardation. But the good news is it can be detected early and treated."

Howse stressed that expecting parents should confirm with their doctor whether or not their child will be tested.

"It's very important for parents to ask their doctor. They can contact the health department. They can contact the March of Dimes website. Find out before you get to the hospital," she said.

This year's report card showed that 41 states screen for 21 or more of the diseases and 13 states and the District of Columbia test for all 29 conditions. The rest of the states all "making progress," according to Howse, but 500,000 newborns still aren't tested annually.

For more information click on the following Web sites:

Caring for Your Baby: Testing the Newborn for Metabolic Defects

How Does Your State Measure Up?

Newborn Screening: State Map Page