Keira Hockley, has taken her first steps despite being diagnosed with congenital CMV, which has affected her development since birth. Picture: Facebook/ Keira’s CMV Journey
Keira Hockley, has taken her first steps despite being diagnosed with congenital CMV, which has affected her development since birth. Picture: Facebook/ Keira’s CMV Journey

HEALTH WARNING: Pregnant women warned about deadly virus

Pregnant women or those trying to conceive are being warned about a herpes-like virus that can have debilitating and life-threatening consequences for unborn babies.

For the first time, Australia's peak body for obstetricians and gynaecologists - the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) - has released official recommendations on how women can protect their babies from its devastating effects.

The virus, which is called cytomegalovirus (CMV), is transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva, tears, urine and breast milk.

And while it is typically harmless in healthy people, with 85 per cent of the population contracting CMV at some point in their lifetime, it can pose a danger to unborn babies.

Australia’s peak body for obstetricians and gynaecologists says pregnant women should be warned about cytomegalovirus.
Australia’s peak body for obstetricians and gynaecologists says pregnant women should be warned about cytomegalovirus.

According to the peak body, women who catch CMV while pregnant may pass the virus to their unborn child.

"If infected, some of these children may have health problems such as hearing loss, developmental delay and learning problems," the RANZCOG report read.

"The most serious cases may end in stillbirth, infant death, or the severe condition of cytomegalic inclusion disease (CID)."

Almost 2000 babies in Australia are born with congenital CMV every year.

According to the peak body, pregnant women with young children are at increased risk as young children are more likely to shed high levels of virus through their bodily fluids for long periods.

Toddlers and preschoolers are prone to catching and transmitting the virus to their mothers via intimate contact such as kissing on the lips, and sharing food, dummies, and utensils.

Pregnant women with young children are at increased risk of CMV, with toddlers and preschoolers prone to catching and transmitting the virus to their mothers via kissing on the lips, sharing food, dummies and utensils.
Pregnant women with young children are at increased risk of CMV, with toddlers and preschoolers prone to catching and transmitting the virus to their mothers via kissing on the lips, sharing food, dummies and utensils.

HOW TO REDUCE RISK

RANZCOG advises that pregnant women can reduce their risk by not sharing food, drinks, or utensils used by children under the age of three years.

It also warned against putting a child's dummy/ soother in your mouth, to avoid contact with saliva when kissing a child (kiss on the forehead not on the lips) and thoroughly washing hands with soap and water for 15-20 seconds - especially after changing nappies, feeding a young child or wiping a young child's nose or saliva.

Toys, countertops and other surfaces that come into contact with children's urine or saliva, should also be kept clean.

According to the Congenital CMV Association of Australia, it is rare for a person to get symptoms after the initial infection unless their immune system is weakened by severe illness and treatments (for example cancer).

Australia’s peak body for obstetricians and gynaecologists says pregnant women should be warned about Cytomegalovirus.
Australia’s peak body for obstetricians and gynaecologists says pregnant women should be warned about Cytomegalovirus.

While most babies (90 per cent) who are infected with CMV before birth are healthy at birth and have normal development, one in five babies infected with CMV may be born with a disability, CMV Association of Australia explained.

"Congenital CMV is the most important infective cause of sensorineural hearing loss and disability and is also associated with stillbirths, cerebral palsy, learning problems and impaired

school performance," RANZCOG report stated.

There is currently no effective vaccine to prevent maternal CMV infection, and no proven therapy to prevent or treat fetal infection, the report read.

While guidelines did not recommend routine blood test screening in pregnancy, they did specify that doctors could consider screening in women who are at high risk of CMV, such as women caring for young children.

It stated that screenings should occur within the first three weeks of life to determine if the newborn has contracted the virus.

"If an infant is diagnosed with congenital CMV, discussion with a paediatrician with experience in infectious diseases is recommended for further assessment and management," the report advised.

Keira Hockley, 2, has taken her first steps despite being diagnosed with congenital CMV which has affected her brain since birth. Facebook/ Keira’s CMV Journey
Keira Hockley, 2, has taken her first steps despite being diagnosed with congenital CMV which has affected her brain since birth. Facebook/ Keira’s CMV Journey

MOMENT LITTLE GIRL TAKES FIRST STEPS

Danielle Hockley's, of the Sunshine Coast, was devastated to learn that her little girl Keira

was diagnosed with the virus after 37 weeks.

"It was hard. We expected a healthy little girl and we've been met with hurdle after hurdle," Ms Hockley told Yahoo 7.

The two-year-old is autistic and has global development delay.

She's also deaf, non-verbal and has vision problems.

But for the first time, Keira took her first steps a couple of weeks ago, despite fears she would never walk.

Keira was diagnosed with the vurs at 37 weeks. Facebook/ Keira’s CMV Journey
Keira was diagnosed with the vurs at 37 weeks. Facebook/ Keira’s CMV Journey

 

Keira is autistic and has global development delay. Picture: Keira's CMV Journey/Facebook
Keira is autistic and has global development delay. Picture: Keira's CMV Journey/Facebook

"OMG this just happened!" Ms Hockey wrote alongside a video she posted on Facebook of her little girl walking.

"I can't believe it!"

Ms Hockley told the publication that the minute Keira was handed to her, they thought there was a chance she'd forever be in a wheelchair.

"I did a heap of research which in hindsight was a bad idea."

"But now, I'm over the moon."