As mothers, we are innately driven to protect our children and give them the best we can. There is a risk that a pregnant woman face that is greater than Zika- and only 10% of woman know about it. Woman deserve to be informed and educated on ways to reduce the risk harming their unborn child.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus that is a member of the herpesvirus family that approximately 50-80% of the population carries. One in four women who are living with younger children and pregnant have it, and when contracted mothers quite often don’t even get sick. It is the leading cause of disabilities in children, and symptoms vary in severity from hearing loss to cerebral palsy to death. The good news is that approximately 85% of the time babies that are exposed to it turn out perfectly ok. Some kids can go on to develop hearing loss later in life.
While not completely foolproof, there are ways to reduce exposure to this virus. Toddlers tend to be very high carriers of the virus and so kissing on the mouth, putting their soother in your mouth and finishing their food should be avoided. The virus is transferred through bodily fluids and so proper precautions such as hand washing should be taken after exposure.
My daughter was born with a moderate hearing loss in her right ear. We were completely shocked and left in the dark as to what the cause might be. Our referral to start working on a cause was five months down the line. After researching causes I came across congenital CMV and its effects. Volunteers and researchers helped to point me in the right direction and a volunteer told me to get my daughter’s metabolic card tested, which came back positive. CMV is so common that it needs to be tested for within the first few weeks of life to confirm it was contracted while I was pregnant.
There is treatment, and the sooner the baby receives it the better outcomes they have. There are so many different combinations of symptoms that babies present with which makes it difficult for studies to be conducted for each scenario for standards of care. Research is still emerging, treatment and it’s effectiveness are still controversial, but that is a discussion that parents can have with their healthcare providers to find what works for their family.
So the next time someone brings up Zika, not changing the cat litter or avoiding soft cheeses please also bring up CMV. Increased awareness will help reduce cases, but it will also help parents whose children have unexplained hearing loss ask the right questions and help drive better standards of care.
For more information please visit cmvcanada.com or nationalcmv.org. A support group has been created in Alberta and can be found under Alberta CMV support group.