Valley Healthcare

Educating Yourself About CMV: Congenital Cytomegalovirus

For pregnant women and mothers of young children, there’s never a shortage of illnesses, complications, and other possible issues to worry about. But you may never heard of congenital CMV: congenital cytomegalovirus.

CMV can affect people who contract it in much the same way as mononucelosis, leading to high fever, fatigue, flu-like symptoms like joint stiffness and muscle aches, and other unpleasant symptoms. To add to it, once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there – for life. But in pregnant women and their growing babies, new CMV infection can be much more problematic. Typically, CMV is a very common virus that doesn’t have many complications for those with healthy immune systems – but for expectant women and their babies, it can be very serious.

Statistics say 1 in 150 babies are born with congenital CMV, and that it actually accounts for more instances of disabilities than other known conditions like Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or Spina Bifida. Congenital CMV occurs in newborns when a pregnant woman is exposed to congenital CMV and then passes it to her unborn child. Because CMV is so common in terms of adult exposure, it is the most common congenital (meaning “from birth”) viral infection in the U.S. Babies born with congenital CMV can experience problems ranging from hearing and vision loss, mental disability, and feeding issues to more serious things like cerebral palsy, seizures, and even death. Newborns diagnosed with congenital CMV will not always develop serious problems, but raising awareness is the key to educating all expectant mothers about protecting their babies before birth from this potentially devastating infection.

Things you can do to prevent CMV infection during pregnancy and thus reduce the risk of your child contracting congenital CMV include the following:

  •  Practice regular, consistent hand-washing with soap and water (for a minimum of 15 seconds!), particularly when you’re dealing with other young children or toddlers in your car, including diaper changes, feedings, wiping mucous or saliva, and touching their toys (which are very germy, as we all know).
  • Don’t share food, drinks, or eating utensils used by young children.
  • Do not put your young child’s pacifier in your mouth, and don’t share a toothbrush with them.
  • Keep toys, countertops, floors, and other surfaces clean, particularly those that come in contact with children’s saliva or urine.

While there is no vaccine for congenital CMV or CMV itself, blood tests can help find the antibodies created in the immune system that fight off CMV infection in the mother, at which point there are some treatments for pregnant women and newborns that can help minimize the potential for complications from congenital CMV. And in worst case scenarios, treatments like Ganciclovir, an antiviral treatment, help prevent hearing loss and improve head and brain growth in children who have already contracted congenital CMV.

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, educate yourself about congenital CMV by visiting http://www.stopcmv.org/ or http://www.congenitalcmv.org/home.htm, or call one of the caring Pediatric staff members at Valley Health Care System and schedule an appointment to come talk about your options for preventing congenital CMV in your little one. Call our main line at 706-322-9599 Ext. 1100.

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