Today, I’m taking a break from my usual blogging topics to help raise awareness of CMV (Cytomegalovirus). Very few people have heard of the virus, yet at least half of the UK population carry it. Most healthy adults and children will have no signs or symptoms, nor long-term effects, however it can be very dangerous to unborn babies.
CMV can cause miscarriage and stillbirth, and is the one of the main causes of birth defects in the UK, affecting around 1 in a 1000 newborn babies a year. It can cause a devastating range of physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities, including hearing loss, autism, physical and motor impairment, learning difficulties and visual impairment.
I’d never heard of CMV until my friend gave birth to her second child. When he was just a few days old, she had a strong feeling that there was something wrong with his sight. Though the doctors were much slower to pick it up, it transpired that he had cataracts in both eyes. The cause was later diagnosed as Congenital CMV infection.
CMV is more common than Down’s syndrome, Toxoplasmosis, Spina Bifida and Cystic Fibrosis. We’re aware of these conditions, but why do so few of us know about CMV? Since it was over a decade since I was pregnant with Lil’ L, I wondered whether women are now made aware of CMV at their prenatal appointments. I was surprised to find out that they still aren’t routinely told!
The CMV virus is spread through saliva, nasal discharge and other bodily fluids. Exposure to saliva and urine of small children is the main cause of CMV spread to pregnant women, so those with a young family or who work with young children need to be especially careful about hygiene.
With a few simple procedures, pregnant women can minimise the risk of contracting CMV:
- Wash hands with soap & water after changing nappies, clearing up food or wiping a child’s face
- Avoid sharing dummies, cutlery, drinks or food with anyone
- Avoid kissing babies & young children directly on the mouth or near nose/cheek – give hugs or kiss on forehead
- Wash hands and any items that have been in contact with bodily fluids with soap and water
- Use condoms during sexual intercourse after conception
Kimberley Walsh from Girls Aloud has become Patron of CMV Action, a charity dedicated to educate women in the UK about CMV, and the simple steps that can be taken to prevent this devastating virus. The charity is staffed by volunteers, the majority of whom have CMV children. This month, Kimberley is spearheading the “Wash Away CMV” Campaign to highlight how simple hygiene precautions can save babies’ lives.
I think that it’s vital that we raise awareness of CMV and these simple preventative measures. If you know of anyone that’s pregnant or planning a family, please do share this information. Thank you! ♥