CMV Awareness Month: the most dangerous virus you’ve never heard of

Empowering families with knowledge of three simple preventative steps can drastically reduce the risk of congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) – Australia’s leading infectious cause of disability in newborns.

That’s the message the CMV Association and Cerebral Palsy Alliance are sharing with pregnant people, families and the wider community this June for CMV Awareness Month.

“Every day in Australia, a baby is born with a life-long disability caused by congenital CMV. As an obstetrician I have witnessed the profound impact that CMV has on families and how little is known about this common virus in the community,” said Dr Antonia Shand, Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at the Royal Hospital for Women.

“CMV Awareness Month brings families, medical professionals and researchers together to highlight the importance of CMV prevention.”

A common herpesvirus, CMV is endemic – roughly 80% of adults will have been infected by the age of 40. But while CMV is mostly harmless to most people with healthy immune systems, if caught during pregnancy the virus can damage a baby’s developing brain.

The risk in pregnancy is highest in the first trimester, but can be reduced through three simple preventative measures:

  • Wash with care: wash your hands after activities such as changing nappies
  • Kiss with care: avoid contact with saliva – try kissing your baby on the forehead instead of the lips
  • Don’t share: avoid putting a child’s dummy or toothbrush in your mouth, and don’t share food, cutlery or utensils with infants

“Raising awareness about congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) is vital for people to have the opportunity to reduce their risk of contracting CMV before and during pregnancy. It also fosters more informed choices and better access to available treatments, resources and support,” said Kate Russ-Daly, President and Founder of CMV Association.

“We know that prevention is always better than a cure and a proactive approach to health care issues, including congenital CMV, provides for earlier diagnosis & timely intervention which can not only greatly reduce the economic impact of congenital CMV but also result in better outcomes.”

Key facts about CMV

  • Every year, 400 infants in Australia are born with a disability caused by CMV
  • CMV is known to cause epilepsy, hearing loss, cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment and, in rare cases, death. 
  • Around 10% of cerebral palsy is now believed to be linked to CMV and it is the leading cause of neurosensory hearing loss in children 
  • A 2023 national survey found that just 14% of women aged 20-40 are familiar with the virus
  • CMV causes 20 times more pregnancy abnormalities than toxoplasmosis, rubella and listeriosis combined 
  • A host of educational resources and materials on CMV can be accessed HERE 

CMV Awareness Month activities include a social media campaign aimed at parents and maternal health professionals, as well as new alliance of leading non-profit disability organisations and health agencies.

A/Prof Hayley Smithers-Sheedy, Principal Research Fellow at CPA Research Institute, said that simple hygiene strategies can reduce the risk of CMV infection in pregnancy.

“With the establishment of this new alliance between families impacted by CMV,  disability organisations and our partners at the NSW Department of Health, we now have a new opportunity to get prevention messaging out to pregnant women, who tell us they feel empowered by knowing how to stay healthy in pregnancy,” she said. 

The CMV prevention alliance is chaired by former NSW Minister for Health, The Hon Brad Hazzard, with representatives from Australian College of Midwives, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, CMV Association, Deafness Forum Australia, Epilepsy Action Australia, Macquarie University, Mercy Perinatal, NextSense, NSW Dept of Health’s Clinical Excellence Commission and the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), Royal North Shore Hospital, Stillbirth Foundation Australia, the University of Melbourne and more.

For the first time in 2024, a feature on CMV infection in pregnancy has been published on Raising Children, Australia’s most-read parenting website with a social media audience of 350,000. 

“We know that prevention is always better than a cure and a proactive approach to health care issues, including congenital CMV, provides for earlier diagnosis & timely intervention which can not only greatly reduce the economic impact of congenital CMV but also result in better outcomes.”

What support is available for families affected by CMV?

  • A diagnosis of congenital CMV for your baby can be life-changing
  • CMV Australia is a family advocacy organisation dedicated to raising awareness and supporting families affected by CMV. 
  • The non-profit organisation has a variety of supports for families, including educational resources and a family support forum. 
  • You can make a donation to support the work of CMV Association HERE

How CPA is working with medical professionals and clinicians to prevent CMV

  • For several years, Cerebral Palsy Alliance has been working with the Australian College of Midwives and CMV Association on an e-learning course for midwives, with more than 1,200 midwives having successfully completed the training
  • Research shows that just 10% of maternal healthcare professionals routinely counsel women in their care on the risks of CMV
  • Following the success of the midwifery course, CPA partnered with the University of Melbourne, and CMV Association, RACGP and infectious diseases specialists , to deliver an educational course for GPs on infections in pregnancy. To date, more than 500 GPs have undertaken this course 
  • Clinical guidelines on CMV created by Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, first release in 2017, are expected to be updated later in 2024

About CMV Association

CMV Association’s mission is to minimise the impact of CMV in Australia. We do this by empowering and supporting families who have been affected by congenital CMV, raising awareness about congenital CMV through public education initiatives and collaborating with and facilitating Australian research projects.

About Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Cerebral Palsy Alliance is a ground-breaking, global centre of expertise for cerebral palsy research, advocacy, intervention and assistive technology innovation.

As the world’s largest private funder of cerebral palsy research, we bring together a powerful alliance of great minds.

  • Our global research informs our world-class interventions
  • Our unique accelerator program, Remarkable, is unlocking the potential of technology to drive greater inclusion for people with disability
  • Our influence brings together communities and countries in effecting change.

For over 75 years, we have been driven by our founders’ vision of a future where nothing is impossible for people with cerebral palsy and similar conditions. Today, together with the thousands of Australian families we support, the 17million+ global cerebral palsy community, our 2500+ employees and 150,000+ donors, fundraisers and entrepreneurs, we are contributing to solving the next set of impossibilities.

We believe that one person can have an idea, but it takes different skills and the knowledge of many people to make that idea become real.

Media contacts and interview options

Interviews can be arranged with medical experts and families affected by CMV by request – please contact:

Nina Willoughby Senior Manager – PR and Events

M: 0427 400 961 / E:

Martin Zavan Media and Thought Leadership Manager – Cerebral Palsy Alliance

M: 0424 295 422 / E: