Watch Out for PI

Campaign starts to increase awareness about dangerous childhood disease

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FRIDAY, Jan. 17, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- More than 100,000 American doctors have received a letter about a frequently overlooked, life-threatening disease that affects more children than leukemia and lymphoma combined.

The mail campaign about primary immunodeficiency (PI) is a joint effort of the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Jeffrey Modell Foundation.

Information about PI was sent to every pediatrician who is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and every family doctor affiliated with the American Academy of Family Practice Physicians.

PI is an umbrella term for more than 100 genetic defects. These range in severity from chronic sinusitis to Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCIDS), which is also known as Bubble Boy Disease.

PI can cause serious, recurrent and life-threatening infections.

PI symptoms often present as common, chronic childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and ear and sinus infections. Because of that, many doctors misdiagnose PI.

The information mailed to doctors includes PI warning signs. These include:

  • Eight or more new ear infections within a year.

  • At least two serious sinus infections within a year.

  • At least two months on antibiotics with little effect.

  • At least two pneumonias within a year.

  • Failure of an infant to gain weight or grow normally.

  • Recurrent deep skin or organ abscesses.

  • Persistent thrush in mouth of elsewhere on the skin after the age of one.

  • The need for intravenous antibiotics to clear infections.

  • At least two deep-seated infections such as sepsis, meningitis, cellulitis, or osteomyelitis.

  • A family history of primary immunodeficiency.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about primary immunodeficiency.

SOURCE: Jeffrey Modell Foundation, news release, Jan. 8, 2003

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