CMV is the Most Common Viral Infection Affecting Newborns that 91% of Women Don’t Know About
As the New York Times reported in last October’s article, "CMV Is a Greater Threat to Infants Than Zika, but Far Less Often Discussed," for pregnant women and their infants in the United States, Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, needs to be urgently discussed.
CMV can have the same devastating side effects as Zika when pregnant women contract it through bodily fluids, affecting 1 in 200 children born each year. In 2016, Zika caused permanent birth defects in 51 U.S. infants. Compare that to the 30,000+ infants born with CMV annually – 6,000 of which have or may develop permanent disabilities.
SYMPTOMS & TODDLERS: The virus is often symptomless, or may present as a cold or flu, and is typically harmless in otherwise healthy children and adults. CMV is very common among healthy children one to five years of age (one in three five year-olds are already infected), especially for those in daycare and preschool. It is most commonly transferred through contact with the saliva of a person carrying an active CMV infection. Even though your toddler may seem healthy and does not appear to have any symptoms of being sick, it is possible for him or her to shed the virus for three to six months or longer.
IMPACT: When a pregnant woman is exposed to CMV, and the virus passes through the placenta to the fetus, the virus may result in devastating issues for the baby including hearing loss, developmental disabilities, and/or microcephaly. In fact, congenital CMV is the number one cause of non-genetic sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in children. Hearing loss following congenital CMV (cCMV) infection may be present at birth or occur later in the early years of life. About 50% of children with SNHL due to cCMV infection will have further hearing deterioration.
At National CMV, we believe that being aware of and practicing tried prevention methods can help mitigate the risk of acquiring CMV infection before or during pregnancy.
5 Simple Tips to Help Prevent CMV
Contact with the saliva or urine of young children is a major cause of CMV infection among pregnant women, especially mothers, daycare workers, preschool teachers, therapists, and nurses. Women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant should practice the following CMV prevention and healthy pregnancy tips to mitigate the risk of contracting CMV:
Do Not Share Food, Utensils, Drinks or Straws
Saliva may remain on food, cups or cutlery and could transfer a CMV infection to you and your unborn baby. Although it may be easier to feed your child from your own plate or you do not want to waste remaining food from your child’s plate, it is best not to share food or cutlery.
Do Not Put a Pacifier in Your Mouth
How many of us our guilty of wanting to clean our child’s pacifier by putting it in our mouth? Or, your hands are full and you put the pacifier in your mouth just to hold it for a moment? Saliva on your child’s pacifier may transfer CMV to you and your unborn baby. Try to get in the habit of putting a pacifier on your pinky, not in your mouth.
Avoid Contact with Saliva when Kissing a Child
Try not to kiss a child under six years of age on the lips or cheek to avoid contact with saliva. Instead, kiss them on the forehead or top of the head and give them a big, long hug.
Do Not Share a Toothbrush
Toddlers love to imitate everything Mommy does, including pretending to brush their teeth with Mommy’s toothbrush. Store your toothbrush in an area that your child cannot reach.
Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands often with soap and water for 15-20 seconds, especially after the following activities:
- Wiping a young child’s nose or drool
- Changing diapers
- Feeding a young child
- Handling children’s toys