Children’s of Alabama breaks down CMV, what pregnant women need to know

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — CMV or cytomegalovirus is the most common viral infection and the leading non-genetic cause of hearing loss in infants.

According to the National CMV Foundation, the virus is “common, serious, and preventable”.

Dr. Shannon Ross at Children’s Hospital of Alabama breaks down CMV.

“Most people will get it at some point in their life,” Dr. Ross said. 

She adds most of the time, CMV doesn’t cause any problems or symptoms.

The virus can be passed along to infants through the pregnant mother.

“Most babies who get it in the womb or early on are perfectly healthy, and they don’t know unless they test for it,” Dr. Ross said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, testing usually only occurs when symptoms are present.

Symptoms in children and adults include fever, fatigue, sore throat, and swollen glands. (more)

Infants that contract the virus while in the womb can have serious complications. Congenital CMV symptoms are rash, jaundice, small head, large liver and spleen, seizures and damaged eye retina.

“In some children, it can cause them to be pretty sick,” Dr. Ross said. 

The National CMV Foundation reports “Children born with congenital CMV may develop permanent medical conditions and disabilities, such as deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, mental and physical disabilities, seizures, and death.”

CMV is treatable when caught. Dr. Ross says children with the virus are given antiviral medication, but the medicine is reserved for those with symptoms.

There are steps pregnant women can take to prevent contracting CMV.

Dr. Ross says pregnant women are most likely to catch CMV from young children.

She says it is important to not share food or utensils, don’t kiss children on the mouths, wash your hands frequently, and since CMV can be shed in urine, always wash your hands after changing diapers.

“Those are easy things,” Dr. Ross said.

June is CMV Awareness month, and statistically, 91% of women don’t know about CMV.

Dr. Ross says knowing about CMV gives women the opportunity to talk to their provider about it, among the other things women need to know.

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