If you're anything like me, you probably have never heard of Cytomegolvirus (CMV). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), CMV is the most common congenital viral infection in the United States, with nearly 5500 newborns diagnosed with it every year. According to a survey cited by the CDC, only 22% of women have ever heard of CMV as opposed to 98% who had heard of AIDS/HIV and 97% who had heard of Down's syndrome.
So, what is CMV? It's one of the herpesviruses, related to chicken pox, shingles, Epstein-Barr(which causes Mono), and the herpes simplex viruses. CMV is transmitted most often through contact with bodily fluids. Often undetected due to lack of symptoms, CMV is a life-long disease. Associated illness may range from mild to severe. By age 40, between 50-80% of adults have contracted CMV(exact estimates are lacking due to symptomless state of those afflicted). Unfortunately, the detrimental effects of CMV are much more severe for infants. Approximately 1 in 150 infants are born with CMV, and of those 20% will develop severe problems such as hearing loss and developmental disabilities.
So, what can you do as a concerned potential parent?
- Ask your doctor about CMV, the risks of it, and any other possible concerns you may have.
- Reduce your contact with other people's bodily fluids, including saliva, blood, breastmilk, semen, urine, vaginal secretions, etc.
- Wash your hands often
- Don't share cups, plates, eating utensils with others
- Limit sexual contact and use safe sex measures