Sickle Cell Strikes Florida Kids Doubly Hard

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: State officials launched an investigation Friday to find out why young black children in Florida appear to die from sickle cell disease at twice the national rate. Children in Maryland, by contrast, had an 88 percent lower mortality rate, according to a study published this week in the government journal Public Health Reports. The study's researchers acknowledged their report has one major drawback: it was based solely on death certificates and could not explain the geographic discrepancies. One theory for the deaths: Florida's newly-arrived immigrant children from Haiti may be failing to get the health care they need to survive the disease. According to author Dr. Harold Davis of the Food and Drug Administration, "It's reasonable for the people in Florida to be somewhat concerned." Davis noted that fewer children nationwide are dying from sickle cell disease, an inherited disease that afflicts one in every 350 black infants. But when he took a closer look, Florida's striking statistic emerged. Between 1981 and 1992, Florida had 41 more deaths than the national average, a number that may not sound abnormally high, but one that Davis says bears closer inspection.