Newborn babies who are born with the congenital form of cytomegalovirus or CMV may develop a variety of serious conditions including hearing or vision loss and may have some degree of mental retardation. A study recently released by the National Institutes of Health shows that one standard method of testing newborns for CMV is not an effective screening tool.
CMV is a common virus that can affect people at any age. In the United States, about half of all pregnant women have never had any form of CMV which means their bodies are not producing antibodies to fight the infection. Between one and four percent of these women catch the virus for the first time while they are pregnant. And about a third of these women will pass the infection to their unborn babies. Here are some other statistics about CMV in newborns:
• Approximately 30,000 babies are born with CMV (congenital CMV)
• Approximately one in 150 babies are born with congenital CMV
• Approximately one in 750 children develop permanent disabilities from congenital CMV
• Approximately 8,000 children each year have permanent disabilities from congenital CMV
There is a blood test available for pregnant women to tell if the antibodies to fight cytomegalovirus are in her blood. If the antibodies are there, she already has the infection. But the test cannot show how long ago she caught the virus. Babies are at the highest risk of being born with CMV if their mothers catch the virus while they are pregnant or just before they become pregnant. CMV is transferred by contact with bodily fluids. For pregnant women, the most common sources of contact with the virus are through sex and through contact with the urine or saliva of very young children.
Here are tips to help limit the risk of getting infected if you are pregnant:
• Wash hands often – Use soap and water and wash for at least 15 seconds, especially after changing diapers or after touching spit or mucus from a young child.
• Do not share – Avoid drinking out of the same container or sharing food or utensils with young children.