‘I had no idea’: Common virus in pregnant mum causes severe disabilities in her baby girl

'I had no idea': Common virus in pregnant mum causes severe disabilities in her baby girl
Posted on Mon 20 Jun 2022

Parents and doctors around Australia are desperately trying to raise awareness about a very common, but seldom talked about, virus that causes more disabilities in newborn babies than any other viral infection.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is 20 times more common than listeria, yet only one in six pregnant women have heard of it. In fact, less than 10 per cent of maternity health professionals discuss CMV with women in their care.

Find out more about CMV

As a result of a CMV infection in utero, Catherine Bradshaw's daughter Kirsten has cerebral palsy, profound deafness, progressive lung disease, is peg fed and has undergone 18 invasive surgeries over her life.

The mum-of-two from Victoria was diagnosed with CMV during pregnancy, but no concerns were raised. And now she is on a mission to make sure people know exactly what CMV is.

"I wish I had known about it. I have no idea where I got it from. I mean I would have wiped my toddler's drool off my face or arm without a second thought. CMV is so easy to avoid by doing a few simple things."

Read more about Catherine and Kirsten’s journey with CMV on 9Honey.

About 2,000 babies in Australia are born with CMV every year, which equates to roughly one in every 150 newborns.

"There are more CMV babies born in Australia than are born with Down's Syndrome," said Professor William Rawlinson, an infectious diseases expert from the University of NSW.

There are a few simple steps pregnant women can take to reduce their risk of exposure to CMV:

  • Wash hands often with soap and running water for at least 15 seconds and dry them thoroughly. This should be done especially after close contact with young children, changing nappies, blowing noses, feeding a young child, and handling children's toys, dummies/soothers.
  • Do not share food, drinks, eating utensils or toothbrushes with young children.
  • Avoid contact with saliva when kissing a child.
  • Use simple detergent and water to clean toys, countertops and other surfaces that come into contact with children's urine, mucous or saliva.

Find out more about CMV

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