Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two part series. The second part will appear in Monday’s edition, when a local mother will share the story how what she thought was a simple cold resulted in passing CMV to her unborn twins.

The Centers For Disease Control, defines cytomegalovirus, known as CMV, as a common virus that infects people of all ages. By age 40 more than half of all U.S. adults have been infected with CMV. Once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life and can reactivate.
For most people CMV isn’t even a blip on their health radar. Many have no signs or symptoms. Others might experience symptoms that are also linked to a variety of common maladies like a sore throat, fever, swollen glands or fatigue. While CMV infection can cause serious health problems for people with weakened immune systems, the biggest threat is to babies infected with the virus before they are born. Congenital CMV Infection can result in hearing and/or vision loss, cerebral palsy, seizures, developmental and mental disability, behavior issues and microcephaly.
In fact, Melissa Woolly, area March of Dimes development manager, says every hour one child is permanently disabled by CMV and 15 in 100 children or 15 percent, are born with congenital CMV.
“CMV is serious. Studies, over the past several years, clearly show haw devastating CMV is. Prevention is simple, yet only 9 percent of women know about CMV,” Woolly said.
Mendy Spohn, Carter, Jefferson, Johnston, Love, Marshall and Stephens Counties Health Department administrator explains how an expectant mother can unknowingly pass CMV to her unborn child.
“One of the highest risk groups are pregnant women who have not yet contracted CMV prior to pregnancy, as they will possibly pass the virus to their developing child, causing potential birth defects. This means, a woman who hasn’t gotten sick from CMV before she becomes pregnant doesn’t have the antibodies to fight the infection and protect the baby. The most severe results of congenital CMV occur when a pregnant woman becomes sick from CMV for the first time,” Spohn says.
Is there a test that can tell an expectant mom is she has had CMV prior to becoming pregnant? Yes. It’s a simple blood test that Woolly says only costs about $35.
“But it’s rarely, if ever given, when a woman becomes pregnant, nor is there a question about CMV on basic health history forms. That’s one of the reasons there are so many cases of congenital CMV go undiagnosed,” she said.
Woolly urges expectant mothers or women who plan to become pregnant to request the test.
“This is one time when getting a positive test result is good news. It means you’ve already had CMV and have the antibodies that help protect the baby,” she explained.
Still the question remains why isn’t a CMV test a part of the routine medical exams for pregnant women? The answer? Oklahoma, like most states, don’t recognize CMV.
“Since CMV is so common and congenital CMV has been considered rare, some feel it isn’t beneficial to worry a mother about this during pregnancy because there isn’t a lot that can be done. I disagree,” Spohn says. “If a woman knows she doesn’t have the antibodies to help fight this virus, she and her family can be more vigilant about precautions.”
Unfortunately most babies born with CMV appear healthy and the devastating results of the virus are not discovered for months or even years. But tests of the baby’s body fluids within three weeks of birth can be used to test for CMV. However, one in 10 CMV infected infants will display symptoms that may be considered common and not specific to the virus such as, enlarged liver, jaundice, low birthweight, premature birth and/or feeding problems.  
While researchers are working to develop a vaccine for CMV, there is currently no cure. Still, Woolly says there’s a lot that can be done to help quell the spread of CMV to unborn babies and March of Dimes is taking a leading role nationally and here in south central Oklahoma.
“CMV is an issue that’s so important. It’s such a simple virus, yet it causes so much tragedy. I have been talking with Mendy (Spohn) and we have agreed MOD and the area health departments will join together in 2017 to conduct a CMV Summit and launch an awareness campaign,” Woolly pledged.

Preventatives Pull Out Box

sug. head — Protective yourself from CMV
CMV can be passed through body fluids, such as urine, saliva, blood, tears, semen, and breast milk and ironically is found in home and daycare settings. Data shows 75 percent of toddlers in daycare centers have been found to have CMV in their urine or saliva. Women who already have young children or who work with young children are at the highest risk of catching CMV.
Here are ways to protective yourself:
• Avoid kissing children under age 6 on the lips or cheeks. Instead kiss them on their foreheads
• Don’t share eating utensils like, plates, spoons, forks, straws or glasses with children under age 6
• Don’t pick up dropped pacifiers and place them in your mouth to clean them before giving them back to an infant or small child
• Don’t share a toothbrushes with small children
• Wash you hands regularly and always after changing a diaper or contact with bodily fluids of children under age 6
Other ways CMV can be transmitted is sexual contact with someone who has CMV, organ transplants and blood transfusions.