Parents Are Begging American Moms To Watch Out For The CMV Virus

by Rebecca Endicott
Becca is a writer and aspirational dog owner living in NYC.

Every pregnant mom knows that there are dangers she has to watch out for while she’s carrying her little one.

Naturally, she must abstain from alcohol and smoking, she can’t eat sushi, and she is warned against hot tubs.

Then, in the past couple of years, a new danger joined the list: expectant moms or women hoping to conceive should avoid traveling to any part of the world affected by the spread of the Zika virus, which has been linked to microcephaly and other birth defects.

The potential side effects of Zika and the sudden spread of a relatively unknown disease is troubling, but what’s most surprising is how little we’re talking about a virus that’s been around for years, causing virtually identical problems for moms and babies.

It’s called CMV.

In late October 2016, the New York Times published an article: “CMV Is a Greater Threat to Infants Than Zika, but Far Less Often Discussed.”

The piece reveals that between 20,000 and 40,000 babies every year are born with CMV, and that doctors almost never warn mothers of the risk.

Read on below to learn more — and please help to spread awareness about this common virus.

Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, has lately been called “more dangerous than Zika,”but it’s one of the most common illnesses around.

1 in 3 children will be infected with CMV before the age of 5, and half of all adults over the age of 40 have been infected with the disease, according to the CDC.

Once you have CMV, you have it for life — it’s a relative of herpes, and, like herpes, it usually lies dormant in the bloodstream, but can sometimes “flare up” and cause symptoms like fever, sore throat, and swollen glands.

Normally, CMV, while incurable, isn’t very dangerous.

But it becomes much more worrisome when it’s congenital, meaning that a pregnant mom gets infected or has a flare-up, and passes the disease along to her unborn child.

Mom will be just fine, but, according to the New York Times, that baby now has a 1 in 5 chance of being born with serious health conditions and/or physical defects.

CMV causes a wide-range of birth defects, including microcephaly (an undersized head,) deafness, blindness,  and intellectual disabilities.

Some of these conditions, including microcephaly, might be apparent late in the pregnancy or at birth, while others might take years to develop.

Deafness can be particularly devastating. Babies might pass their newborn hearing test with no problem, and then gradually lose their hearing.

Between 20,000 and 40,000 babies every year are born with congenital CMV, which means between 4,000 and 8,000 babies in the U.S. will suffer illness or long-term side effects from the virus.

For comparison, 900 pregnant women in the U.S. have been infected with the Zika virus, and, as of June 2016, just six of the pregnancies resulted in birth defects, according to Washington Post.

In other words, Zika is a very real problem, but it’s not as urgent as CMV.

Fear about Zika is raging all across the country: meanwhile, we still have no vaccine for CMV.

Because there is no vaccine or cure, the American College for Obstetrics and Gynecology ruled last year that OBGYN’s don’t need to warn expectant moms about the risks, reasoning that it’s an unnecessary worry.

But parents facing the obstacles of CMV with no warning disagree, many wishing they had some kind of discussion with their OBGYN about how to reduce chances of transmitting the virus.

CMV is usually passed along through bodily fluids — including saliva, urine, and feces — which is part of the reason that roughly one-third of all kids are infected in their preschool and kindergarten years.

Toddlers and young children bring the virus home, where they infect their parents and anyone else who might step up to change a diaper or clean up a potty-training disaster.

Moms infected by their older children might then pass CMV onto their next child without ever knowing the risks.

The New York Times article notes that lots of parents would have changed their habits — scrubbing hands and avoiding kisses on the mouth, for instance — if they had known they might be putting their little ones at risk.

For a helpful infographic on the many preventative measures parents can take, be sure to read the image below.

What do you think? Should all women be informed about CMV when they get pregnant? Had you ever heard of this virus before?

Weigh in below, and don’t forget to SHARE so more people can be aware of this dangerous virus.