Israeli chain launches campaign for Global ALS Awareness Day

Science and Health

June 21 is marked worldwide as Global ALS Awareness Day, raising awareness for the rare and incurable degenerative disease that causes the body’s muscles to stop functioning until it results in complete paralysis.

It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the American baseball player who was diagnosed in the 1930s. In England, it is called motor neuron disease (MND), and in France, it is called maladie de Charcot.

ALS is the most severe disease from a group of degenerative conditions that damage the motor neurons. In 5%-10% of cases, it’s a dominant hereditary disease, and it commonly manifests in people between the ages of 46 and 65, although some people are diagnosed at a younger age, and some at older ages.

Most patients will die three-five years after being diagnosed, 20% have a life expectancy of between five and 10 years after diagnosis, and just 10% will survive past 10 years. About 120 patients die from the disease every year.

How Israel’s Health Ministry plans to treat ALS

The disease impacts around one out of every 10,000 people and it’s estimated that there are currently 600 people in Israel with ALS at different stages. The existing treatments help slow down the disease’s progression and improve the quality of life for patients. Recently, Israel’s Health Ministry approved a new drug to treat ALS and it was submitted to the 2024 basket of medications heavily subsidized by the government.

Empty beds in the intensive care unit at the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on October 14, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The order in which symptoms appear and the rate of their progression differs from patient to patient. but in most cases, it starts with muscle weakness, which at first causes people to fall, drop objects, and suffer fatigue. As the disease progresses and paralysis spreads, it starts impairing one’s speech, swallowing, chewing, and breathing. Since the disease only affects the motor nerves, the sensory nerves aren’t affected and patients still have their senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Most patients also don’t suffer from any cognitive impairment and they remain lucid until they die.

In preparation for Global ALS Awareness Day, the Noi Sheda chain joined forces with the IsrA.L.S. Association to launch a campaign to raise awareness and support for patients. With every purchase of delivery of fruits and vegetables on Global ALS Awareness Day, the chain will include a red bag with red fruit, a color that symbolizes ALS, and a postcard calling on you to take part in raising awareness and paying attention to those who are affected.

IsrA.L.S promotes research to find a cure for ALS, supports patients and their families, and provides hope in their daily lives as they deal with the disease.