you can't catch it like you can catch a cold or the flu. Kids are born with the disease when both parents pass along the sickle cell anemia gene to their children.
More African Americans have sickle cell anemia than any other group of people. About 1 out of every 500 African Americans has the disease. But some people whose ancestors came from countries around the Mediterranean Sea — like Greece, Italy, and Saudi Arabia — have sickle cell genes, too.
Some scientists think sickle cell anemia may be connected to malaria , a serious and sometimes deadly disease that was very common in those countries. It is believed that people who carry the gene for sickle cell anemia are less likely to catch malaria. So more of these people survived and passed on the sickle cell gene to their children.
Quote from The Times Online
"There are estimated to be between 12,500 and 15,000 people in the UK
with the disease and more than one in nine of the population are carriers.
In the main, sickle cell is found in people whose families come from the
Caribbean, Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia,
but carriers are also being found in the white population as a result of
intermixing many generations ago.
Although numbers are very low, they indicate that sickle cell disease can
no longer be regarded as confined to specific sections of the population
and highlight the importance of antenatal and newborn screening.
The NHS's newborn screening programme, which has covered the whole
of England since 2006, shows that sickle cell is increasingly present
anywhere in the country and not just confined to areas of London and the
West Midlands, where Afro-Caribbean families have traditionally settled.
There are, however, still high concentrations in certain London boroughs
such as Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark where there are an estimated
3,000 cases, 600 of them children."
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Also further details
Living with Sickle Cell Disease
The physical effects
Treatment and day-to-day life