Ashkenazi Jews are at elevated risk for a number of genetic diseases, including Canavan Disease. Approximately 1/36 Ashkenazi Jews carry the Canavan gene. 90 percent of Jews in America are of Ashkenazi descent. Since a carrier displays no symptoms, many people carry the Canavan gene without even knowing it.
Because Canavan Disease was not even diagnosed until the late 1980s, many people have had relatives and ancestors who died of a "strange disease" and find out much later on that it was Canavan Disease.
How would I know if I carry Canavan Disease?
A simple blood test will determine if you carry Canavan Disease, and we recommend that both partners be tested for this disease and a range of other diseases known as "The Ashkenazi Panel, before getting pregnant. " However, it is important to note that which diseases the Ashkenazi panel consists of differs by state, and some states have elected not to include Canavan Disease in their panels. In particular, it is not on Ashkenazi panels in FLORIDA and VIRGINIA, and you must ask your OBGYN or geneticist to test you specifically for Canavan Disease.