Cytomegalovirus [sigh-to-MEG-alo-virus], or CMV, is a common virus that usually causes little to no harm. However, the virus can cause serious risks to babies exposed to it in the womb. In the United States, congenital CMV is the leading nongenetic cause of childhood hearing loss and the most common viral infection of babies before they are born.
Even though every pregnant woman is at risk of acquiring CMV and passing it on to her unborn child, less than 10% of pregnant women surveyed report having heard of this devasting virus. June has been designated Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month as a way to educate more women about the potential dangers.
In addition to hearing loss, congenital CMV can lead to a rash, jaundice, small head size, low birth weight, enlarged liver and spleen, seizures and damage to the retina in the eye. According to the National CMV Foundation, 1 in 200 children are born in the U.S. with congenital CMV each year. Of the approximately 40,000 affected babies, 1 in every 5 will develop permanent health problems, and about 400 will die.
When congenital CMV is diagnosed in the first month after birth, however, medication can improve hearing and development outcomes. Infectious disease experts recommend all babies who fail their newborn hearing screening be tested for congenital CMV before being discharged from the hospital.
A 2017 report published in The Lancet medical journal recommended universal neonatal screening for CMV to facilitate early detection and intervention for hearing loss and developmental delay, where appropriate.
Visit NationalCMV.org to learn more and become part of the movement to raise awareness.