A warning about a virus that can be devastating to your newborn baby’s hearing and health. One out of every 200 infants are born with it and some experts say education and a simple test could help prevent terrible consequences. So why isn’t that happening? 7’s Hank Phillippi Ryan investigates.
Kelli was so excited to meet her newborn.
“I was ready to be a mom and take on the world with my new baby,” Kelli says.
When Landon was born, he was beautiful, and he loved to be held.
“He’s such a good boy,” Kelli says.
But Kelli’s happiness soon turned to tears.
“It’s just been a lot,” Kelli says.
Over the next few months, she learned little Landon was deaf, had cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy.
“It’s not something that any new parent wants to hear for their child,” Kelli says.
Testing revealed Landon had Cytomegalovirus or CMV.
CMV is a common virus. More than half of American adults over 40 have it in their body but don’t know it, because they have no serious symptoms.
A pregnant mom who has the virus doesn’t always pass it along to her growing baby, but when she does, it can be dangerous.
“It can cause devastating consequences for the developing newborn, these can include seizures, low birth weight, cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness, and even death,” says Dr. Michael Cohen, M.D., the director of the Multidisciplinary Pediatric Hearing Loss Clinic at Mass Eye and Ear in Boston.
“I was like, literally completely in shock,” Kelli says.
There’s no cure for CMV.
But there are ways to lessen the damage to newborns through early diagnosis and treatment.
When Grace was born doctors saw some visual symptoms of CMV, yellow skin and a smaller head. When a test confirmed she had the virus she started getting antiviral medicine. Like Landon, Grace is deaf and has cerebral palsy, but her dad believes things could have been much worse.
“I feel very fortunate. I feel if we didn’t know that Grace had CMV, and we started the antivirals later in life, she would just have had more damage done to her brain,” Shayne Gaffney, Grace’s father says.
Shayne is part of a group of parents and doctors pushing to make CMV testing mandatory for all newborns in Massachusetts. Right now, hospitals in the state aren’t required to screen for the virus.
“I think it’s most important for it to change.
The group also wants mandatory prenatal education to teach moms how to prevent passing the virus to their babies.
“It’s not something that any new parent should need to go through,” Kelli says.
There’s a CMV bill being considered at the State House right now. If it passes Massachusetts would be the first state in the country to require CMV testing for all newborns and prenatal education for parents.
For more information about CMV and the legislation filed in MA:
Massachusetts cCMV Coalition
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