Advocates hope to prevent CMV birth defects through new legislation

Posted at 5:24 PM, Feb 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-20 19:36:36-05

Members of the CMV Advocacy Project are petitioning lawmakers to support legislation that would raise awareness about cytomegalovirus (CMV). 

CMV is typically a harmless cold virus but can cause permanent disabilities to an unborn child. Birth defects caused by CMV can include hearing loss, vision loss, developmental disabilities, small head size, and even death.

"I was actually a child care provider and I had never heard about this virus," Jessica Rachels, CMV Advocate and mother of an 11-year-old daughter with disabilities caused by CMV, said.

Rachels says she took some precautions while pregnant, such as washing her hands, but she says she would have done more if she new she could contract CMV.

CMV is transmitted most easily from wet saliva to wet saliva. 

"I just remember going out on the playground, being pregnant, eating snacks and eating my lunch, not realizing I was putting my child at risk," Rachels said. 

Rachels said not knowing about CMV while pregnant has inspired her to advocate for more education about its risks now. 

CMV legislation introduced this year aims to increase education for healthcare providers, increase public awareness, and mandate CMV testing for infants who fail their newborn hearing screens. 

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, and requests $5,000 a year in new funding go to the Department of Health & Welfare. 

S1060 will now head to the House floor for a vote.