CMV poses great risk to babies

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010

More children have disabilities due to congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus) than other well-known infections and syndromes including Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Spina Bifida and Pediatric HIV/AIDS. In a recent survey of women in the United States, only 22 percent had heard of CMV, compared with 97 percent who had heard of Down Syndrome and 98 percent who had heard of HIV/AIDS.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CMV is the most common congenital (present at birth) viral infection in the United States. One in 150 children is born infected with congenital CMV. Each year, 30,000 children are born with congenital CMV causing 400 deaths and leaving 8,000 children with permanent disabilities such as deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, mental and physical disabilities and seizures.

In the United States, about 50 percent to 60 percent of women are at risk for contracting CMV infection during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the CDC recommend that OB/GYNs counsel women on basic prevention measures to guard against CMV infection. But according to a 2007 survey, only 44 percent of OB/GYNs reported counseling their patients about preventing CMV. This could be due to the perceived rarity of congenital CMV cases, the OB/GYN's possible limited knowledge of the virus, the lack of congenital CMV diagnoses within their practice or just a simple oversight.

CMV is a very common virus in young children and it is estimated that up to 70 percent of healthy children between the ages of 1 and 3 may have CMV. CMV can be transmitted to pregnant women via bodily fluids including saliva, urine, tears, blood or mucus. To prevent CMV, practice frequent handwashing with soap and water after contact with diapers or oral secretions, especially with a child who is in daycare or interacting with other young children on a regular basis. Other basic prevention measures to guard against CMV include not kissing young children on the mouth and not sharing food, towels or utensils with them.

Stop CMV understands how difficult it may be to adjust one's daily routine while pregnant, especially for mothers and those women who work as child care providers, daycare workers, nurses, teachers and therapists.

However, it is important for these messages to be communicated to pregnant women and those planning future pregnancies in order to inform and empower them to take a more active role in their personal hygiene and health care decisions.

Karen Gillis


Representative for Alaska for Stop CMV

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