A recent web-based survey assessed whether new educational materials developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) have the potential to increase cytomegalovirus (“CMV”) awareness and encourage behaviors to reduce exposure to the virus. Because there is currently no vaccine to prevent CMV, educating woman at risk is considered the best current method of preventing future infections.
Researchers recruited African American and Caucasian women who had a young child and were either pregnant or planning a pregnancy. The women were asked to participate in a 15-minute survey and randomly asked to view either a one-page CMV fact sheet or a short video. Pre and post-survey measures assessed changes in CMV knowledge and motivation to adopt prevention behaviors. Audience preferences were also assessed.
Prior to viewing the educational materials, 75% of women surveyed were “not at all familiar” with CMV. Non-Hispanic black women were more likely to report they were somewhat or very familiar with CMV (30%) compared to non-Hispanic white women (21%).
After reading the educational factsheet or watching the video, knowledge of CMV and prevention behaviors increased substantially. 90% of women said that after viewing the educational materials they would be “somewhat” or “very likely” to seek additional information. The educational materials also generated strong support for prevention behaviors during pregnancy, with women indicating that they would try to avoid catching CMV if they were pregnant. A majority of participants (89%) said the materials motivated them to talk to family and friends about CMV.
Awareness of various disease conditions. Women could answer “very familiar”, “somewhat familiar”, or “not at all familiar”. For easier viewing, only the percentages for the first two answer categories are plotted. “Not at all familiar” is the percentage that will make the three categories sum to 100%.
The survey concluded that health education materials can be an effective means of increasing CMV awareness and potentially decreasing the prevalence of congenital CMV infection. Notably, the educational video generated increased support for CMV prevention behaviors compared to the fact sheet.
CMV is the most common congenital infection in the U.S. Despite its prevalence, awareness of CMV among women of reproductive age remains low. A separate 2012 study examining child to mother transmission of CMV revealed that only 7% of men and 13% of U.S. women surveyed had heard of CMV. The same study found that women regularly engage in behaviors that put them at risk when interacting with children still in diapers, including kissing on the lips, sharing utensils, cups, and food. CMV is often transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, especially saliva, with young children acting as a major ‘reservoir’ of the virus and source of infection.