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Newborn babies sleeping in hospital nursery.

ILLINOIS (WAND) - Starting Monday, every newborn baby in Illinois will be tested for Spinal Muscular Atrophy, state health officials said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said Spinal Muscular Atrophy, known as SMA, is a group of hereditary diseases that destroy motor neurons over time, leading to muscle weaknesses.

“It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the department. “Early diagnosis of babies with SMA can lead to potentially life-saving interventions. By screening every baby born in Illinois, we hope to identify cases early so therapy can begin as soon as possible.”

The department said SMA affects about 1 in 11,000 births. Officials said the early screening allows for treatment before an infant starts showing symptoms.
 
In 2018, federal authorities added SMA to its list of recommended conditions to screen newborns for. Illinois officials said it took some time to buy new equipment, develop test methods and alter computer systems to provide laboratory results. 

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