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Fetus screening urged to prevent congenital defects

UP to 60,000 newborn babies in China are born with congenital hearing disorder, said Ministry of Health officials in Shanghai today as they promoted early hearing screening in 17 provinces and municipalities.

There are 20 million deaf people in the nation, including about 800,000 children under the age of 7. In Shanghai, 300 to 400 children are born deaf annually.

With early detection and diagnosis, over 90 percent of deaf children can gain hearing and speaking ability after timely treatment, experts said.

Shanghai is the first city in China to carry out newborn hearing screening. Local experts are making more advanced research on genetic screening on fetus and newborn babies for deafness and ultrasonic checkup on fetus with congenital heart diseases.

Xinhua Hospital undertook a project from the Ministry of Science and Technology this year to do research on genes that lead to deafness and conduct clinical tests of diagnostic methods.

Couples who have hearing difficulties or have had a deaf child can undergo such tests to screen their fetus.

Among every 1,000 newborns in the city, two have a hearing problem. Half of all cases have a genetic cause.

Congenital heart disease is another major concern.

Led by Shanghai Children's Medical Center, a network of maternity hospitals and general hospitals are sharing information and resources to detect fetus with congenital heart disease and give timely intervention to pregnant mothers. Their newborn babies will be transferred to professional hospitals soon after delivery.

"Heart surgery in the delivery room is also under our consideration for those with serious deformity," said Liu Jinfen, president of Shanghai Children's Medical Center, which conducts more than 3,000 congenital heart surgeries every year, the most in the world.


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