June is National Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Awareness Month, but only about 9 percent of women are aware of the virus, and 1 out of 3 pregnant women who become infected with CMV will pass the virus to their unborn child. CMV is a member of the herpes virus family. It is common and typically harmless to the general population – between 50 and 80 percent of people in the United States have had a CMV infection before the age of 40. But once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life.
CMV is the most common viral infection in US-born infants. Approximately 1-4 percent of uninfected women have a primary (or first) CMV infection during pregnancy, and about 40 percent of women who become infected with CMV for the first time during pregnancy pass the virus to their babies.
CMV is also the leading viral cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities, including hearing loss, vision loss, and cerebral palsy. Roughly 30,000 children are born with congenital CMV each year, and more than 5,000 children suffer from permanent problems. CMV is an often symptomless virus spread through saliva, mucus, and urine.
Coming into contact with the CMV virus is a common occurrence and causes cold-like symptoms, such as a sore throat, fever, fatigue and swollen glands. These mild CMV symptoms last for only a few short weeks and are rarely a cause for concern for healthy kids or adults. The CMV virus can also cause serious problems for people with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised) due to organ transplants, HIV/AIDS infection, chemotherapy, and specific medications, such as glucocorticoids, cytostatics, antibodies, and drugs acting on immunophilins.
It is important to note, CMV is preventable! Every pregnant woman is at risk for acquiring CMV, but there are simple and effective preventative measures you and your loved ones can take to mitigate the risk of CMV transmission during pregnancy. If you are pregnant – or planning to become pregnant – talk with your doctor about screening for CMV.
For pregnant women, women who might become pregnant, or women who work with young children, it is imperative to practice CMV precautions to avoid exposure to CMV. Healthy babies, toddlers, and young children can get CMV from their peers and pass it to their pregnant mother or pregnant caregiver.
A few precautionary measures include:
- When you kiss a young child, try to avoid contact with saliva. For example, you might kiss on the forehead or cheek rather than the lips.
- Do not put things in your mouth that have just been in a child’s mouth, including food, cups, forks or spoons and pacifiers.
- Wash your hands after wiping a child’s nose or mouth and changing diapers.
- Learn more at www.NationalCMV.org, and if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, discuss your risks and ways to protect yourself and your unborn child.
SOURCE: National CMV Foundation, www.nationalcmv.org