This summer, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Lisa Murkowski passed a resolution designating June 2012 as “National Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Awareness Month.” The virus, CMV, is a common cause of birth defects in the United States. Approximately one percent of babies suffer from congenital CMV, which equates to approximately 40,000 babies born with the virus each year.
The virus generally does not cause any serious symptoms in healthy individuals. A mother, who has no symptoms, can thus pass the infection to her fetus during pregnancy without knowing until the baby is born with impairments.
CMV passes through bodily fluids and because the symptoms are so mild, the virus usually is overlooked. Children in day-care often get the infection from other children. A mother caring for an older child can then contract the infection by wiping saliva off a toddler’s face or changing diapers. Blood transfusions may also transfer the infection.
Debilitating symptoms for an infant
When a newborn is born with the virus, the baby may show no signs or could suffer a fever, enlarged liver or spleen or developmental issues both related to mental abilities and motor skills. CMV is also linked to hearing loss and as many as 30 to 40 percent of the cases of deafness are related to congenital CMV infection. In extreme cases, an infant may even die from the infection.
Medical practitioners can test for the virus during the pregnancy. Obstetricians and Gynecologists need to counsel pregnant mothers of the risks posed by CMV infections. A
diagnosis error or the failure to warn of the risks could even prove to be medical negligence in some cases.
If a baby is born with a CMV infection, there are antiviral drugs that combat the symptoms and may prevent deafness in some children. In many cases, hearing loss may not be immediately apparent and some researchers recommend that CMV screening be a part of newborn wellness checks.
Tips aimed at prevention
Changes in behavior can limit the transfer of CMV. Pregnant women can limit the chances of contacting a CMV infection during pregnancy by following these suggestions:
- Frequent hand washing with soap and water after changing diapers
- Avoid kissing children on the lips
- Avoid sharing food, towels and utensils with small children
These are the best steps to avoid infection until a vaccine becomes available. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine listed the development of a CMV as one of the highest priorities for new vaccines; however, there is not yet a proven vaccination.
Remedies for parents of a disabled child
If a physician failed to properly diagnose a Cytomegalovirus infection in the first trimester, there could be a possible claim for medical malpractice. If your newborn needed a blood transfusion and then developed CMV, it could be that improper screening and control of donor blood caused the infection.
If your infant suffers an injury, you should consult a local medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. There are specific timelines that must be following in bringing a lawsuit against a negligent physician or hospital. An attorney can review pre-natal care, labor and delivery to determine whether the negligence of a medical professional or facility was to blame.