(Oklahoma City, OK) June is Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Awareness Month. CMV is a common virus which, in healthy people, can cause mild illness or no symptoms at all. While most are unaware they’ve been infected, the virus increases the risk of certain birth defects for unborn babies when a woman is exposed during pregnancy.
Since most women are unaware of CMV, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is promoting awareness of this public health concern. About one in every 200 babies is born with a congenital CMV infection, but only one in 10 babies with CMV infection at birth will have noticeable signs of infection including small head size, jaundice, or an enlarged liver or spleen. Approximately one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will have long-term health problems such as hearing or vision loss, intellectual disability, developmental delay, small head size, seizures, or lack of coordination. Many babies born with congenital CMV infection won’t have symptoms at birth but are still at risk of developing hearing loss later in life, even if they pass a newborn hearing screening.
Cara Gluck is the OSDH regional director for Beckham, Greer, Harmon, Jackson and Tillman counties; and the mother of a child diagnosed with CMV. She said awareness is key to prevention, and that a woman should be informed of risks to her unborn child to include information on CMV.
“My provider knew I was considered in a higher risk category because I had a young child in a daycare setting and because she was potty-training while I was pregnant, but never discussed this risk with me,” said Gluck. “Had I only known, my husband and I could have made some behavioral changes relating to care for our, then 2-year-old, daughter. He could have been the one to care for her when she was sick, instead of me.”
Since CMV is common in young children, women around young children are at a higher risk for exposure to CMV. The virus can be passed from children to pregnant women through urine during diaper changes, sharing of eating utensils, or exchanging saliva when kissing.
The OSDH offers the following tips to prevent the spread of the virus:
Kiss children on the cheek and forehead, not the mouth. Share love, not germs.
Wash hands after contact with bodily fluids, especially after changing diapers.
Avoid sharing utensils, straws or cups with young children.