Every year, about one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus). Of those born with the infection, one out of five are also born with disabilities. Yet just nine percent of women have heard of the virus. Are you one of them?
CMV is extremely common, and in healthy children and adults, is mostly asymptomatic. When passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn child, however, the virus can have some serious consequences. Read on to educate yourself, and learn the steps to prevent CMV from becoming an issue for your family.
What Exactly Is CMV, and Why Is Congenital CMV a Concern?
CMV is a common virus that many adults and children contract during their lifetime. According to the CDC, more than half of adults have been infected with CMV by the age of 40. Once the CMV virus is in a person's body, it stays there for life, and can reactivate. Though mostly asymptomatic, it can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn child — this is known as congenital CMV. About one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV, and about one in every five of those babies will have long-term health problems. The most common of these is hearing loss, which can be detected soon after birth or later in childhood.
How Is CMV Transmitted?
CMV is passed through bodily fluids: saliva, urine, blood, tears, semen, and breast milk. This can occur from direct contact with saliva or urine (a particular concern when dealing with young children), sexual contact, breast milk consumed by nursing infants, or through transplanted organs and blood transfusions.
What Steps Can Be Taken to Help Prevent Congenital CMV?
Are you currently pregnant and also have a toddler? Contact with saliva or urine is a major cause of congenital CMV. (Just think of all the potential transmission points throughout the course of an average day — it's dizzying!) Here's what can be done to help prevent it, according to the National CMV Foundation:
- Don't share food, drinks, utensils, or straws
- Don't put a pacifier in your mouth
- Avoid contact with saliva when kissing your child
- Don't share a toothbrush
- Wash your hands — regularly and thoroughly
Learn more about CMV here.