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Karcher Bill Requiring Reporting Of Hyperbilirubinemia Approved

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would add severe hyperbilirubinemia, a leading cause of neonatal jaundice, to the list of conditions reported to the birth defects registry under the Department of Health and Senior Services was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 6-0.

“Neonatal jaundice caused by hyperbilirubinemia isn’t necessarily uncommon, but severe cases, if left untreated, can have drastic impact on a child’s developmental health and well-being,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, the Vice Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “New Jersey needs to monitor trends in this disease to gain a better understanding about the factors which may increase or decrease a child’s chances of being affected. Through surveys and epidemiological research on birth defects, we may hopefully be able to put expectant mothers on the right path to avoid disability for their children.”

The bill, S-2046, would add severe hyperbilirubinemia to the birth defects registry in the Department of Health and Senior Services. The bill would require that any time an infant is diagnosed with a severe case of hyperbilirubinemia, one of the most common causes for neonatal jaundice in infants, the case would be confidentially reported to the birth defects registry. Hyperbilirubinemia is a metabolic condition caused by an excess of the chemical bilirubin in the blood, and in severe levels, can act as a poison to the nervous system, which can lead to deafness, seizures or developmental delay, or, potentially, death.

“There has been a substantial increase in the number of cases of severe hyperbilirubinemia lately, and we want to look at every factor that may potentially lead to long-term repercussions on the health of our State’s children,” said Senator Karcher. “If we can tell pregnant mothers how to avoid the worst cases of the condition early on, we may be able to save their children from problems down the road. Through the birth defects registry, hopefully the State will be able to facilitate medical breakthroughs that will lead to the eradication of medical disorders like hyperbilirubinemia in the near future.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for approval before going to the full Senate for consideration.

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