Congenital cytomegalovirus (“cCMV”) is the most common congenital infection in the U.S., affecting more than 30,000 newborns each year. Despite its prevalence, awareness of cCMV among women of reproductive age remains low.
A 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 cCMV. CDC Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Cannon found that many of the women surveyed regularly engaged in behaviors that put them at risk when interacting with children still in diapers, including kissing on the lips (69%), sharing utensils (42%), cups (37%), and food (62%). 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.
A separate study from 2006, showed similarly low rates of awareness among U.S. women (22%), with knowledge of cCMV lagging several conditions with significantly lower prevalence, including Down syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome. In that study, 54% of women who were aware of CMV had heard about it from a healthcare provider, but most could not correctly identify modes of CMV transmission or prevention.
Despite its large public health burden, few women have heard of cCMV, and even fewer are aware of prevention strategies. Expecting mothers should be informed of health habits that can reduce their risk of CMV infection during pregnancy, a strategy supported by CMV public advocacy groups StopCMV.org and CMVAction.co.uk.