Most women know to avoid soft cheeses and deli meats during pregnancy, however sloppy toddler kisses could potentially be just as harmful to an unborn child.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus linked to physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities in hundreds of Australian newborns every year. It is found in the urine, saliva and nasal secretions of infected people.
If a pregnant woman is infected with CMV, there is a risk that her unborn baby will also become infected. While most babies will remain well, some may have a disability.
Pam Rogers had not heard of CMV until pregnant with her son Christopher, who was born in 2014. When 15 weeks pregnant, the virus affected Mrs Rogers as if it was a common cold but it significantly affected her baby.
Mrs Rogers said she was measuring small for her pregnancy and had scans at 26 weeks and 28 weeks, when an abnormality was found on Christopher’s brain which sparked a host of tests and scans.
“At 31 weeks, we went in to discuss the results and they said the damage was so severe … they didn’t think he would be compatible with life,” she said.
However, at 37.5 weeks Mrs Rogers went into labour and Christopher was born into “a room of doctors ready to save his life”. Over the next three months in NICU, he was subjected to a lot of tests and the conclusion was that CMV had affected his liver, kidney, spleen, heart, lungs, bone marrow, hearing, vision and brain.
Secondary to CMV, Christopher has microcephaly, severe global development delays, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, unilateral hearing loss and cortical vision impairment.
While Mrs Rogers said they don’t have a prognosis for Christopher, she said the medical professionals are baffled by “how he is functioning at the level he is”.
She said Christopher “has the most amazing smile” and enjoys his time at kindergarten, recognises family and friends, and is responsive to touch.
“He is the most endearing little boy and has this incredible ability to make the greyest day light again.”
Yet Mrs Rogers acknowledged it has been hard “knowing I could have potentially prevented this”, if there was greater awareness of CMV and prevention associated with good hand hygiene.
June is CMV Awareness month. Some simple steps to help prevent the spread of CMV include: avoid sloppy kisses from toddlers; don’t share food, drinks, utensils or toothbrushes; don’t put a child’s dummy in your mouth; wash your hands with soap and warm water after changing nappies, feeding or wiping noses; and clean toys and surfaces that come into contact with bodily fluids.
For more information visit cmv.org.au