Congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus) is common — really common, in fact — but surprisingly, it's seldom talked about. CMV is a latent virus, so once a person is infected with CMV the virus stays in the body for life — in fact, it is estimated that 50 to 80 percent of adults in the United States are infected with CMV by the time they reach 40 years old. And when infants are infected with CMV in utero and are born with CMV, that's called congenital CMV.
Babies in utero usually contract the virus if the mother has an active CMV infection, or if the mom picked it up from their toddler who has CMV. Unfortunately, toddlers don't typically show symptoms of the virus, so it's important to take safety precautions (listed below) if you have another child in the house while you're pregnant.
According to the National CMV Foundation, about one in every 200 babies born in the US has the virus. While CMV can be asymptomatic, approximately 20 percent of infected infants will experience birth defects such as hearing loss, vision impairment, varying degrees of learning disability, and decreased muscle strength and coordination.
If you're currently pregnant and have another toddler in the house, make sure to follow the below guidelines to help prevent the spread of congenital CMV.
Don't Share Food, Drinks, Utensils, or Straws With Your Child
Name a parent who's never turned their tot's leftovers into, um, dinner. Go on, we'll wait. While it may feel like a parenting rite of passage, make your own plate of chicken nuggets next time. The less fork (and plate, food, and drink) sharing, the better.
Don't Put a Pacifier in Your Mouth
It's a (slightly icky) act of desperation that many of us have resorted to in desperate times. But holding out for an actual sink with running water to rinse off that paci is the smart play here.
Avoid Contact With Saliva When Kissing Your Child
We know, we know, you could just eat them up. But steer clear of their little lips or messy cheeks to reduce the risk of saliva transmission to your baby on board.
Don't Share Your Toothbrush
There's no time like the present to introduce oral hygiene 101. Keep those toothbrushes (even the tiny ones) separate, always.
Wash Your Hands
Count to 20. Sing "Happy Birthday." You know the drill.
Learn more about CMV here.