Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that can affect people of all ages. In fact, over half of all adults have been infected with CMV by the age of 40, but in most healthy adults, the immune system will prevent the virus from causing illness while some may experience mild symptoms such as fever or sore throat.
Although CMV is not considered a serious problem for most, when CMV is passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, this is referred to as congenital CMV. One out of every 200 children are born with congenital CMV each year, making it one of the most common viral infections in the United States. While 10-15% of infants with congenital CMV have clinical symptoms at birth, some babies with congenital CMV without clinical symptoms at birth develop health problems later in life. Children born with congenital CMV may develop permanent medical conditions and disabilities, such as hearing loss detectable after birth or even later in life, developmental and motor delay, vision loss, and seizures.
Understanding the importance of preventing congenital CMV, Flushing Hospital Medical Center recently initiated a newborn screening protocol for all babies born at the hospital who are suspected of having a hearing impairment. This screening program is interdisciplinary as it involves the coordinated efforts of the Pediatric, Neonatology and Audiology Departments. If a suspected newborn is diagnosed with congenital CMV, the hospital can provide referral to Early Intervention, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and Pediatric ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat specialists) to help improve complications associated with hearing loss and other potential neurological and developmental outcomes.
In addition to the screening program, Flushing Hospital has also concentrated its efforts on providing education and support to the community about CMV. The hospital now also offers multi-lingual materials explaining how to prevent infection during pregnancy as well as early warning signs for CMV in newborns. This information is available in the prenatal and pediatric outpatient waiting areas of Flushing Hospital.
For their efforts, Flushing Hospital was recently awarded an $8,000 grant by the National CMV Foundation. Flushing Hospital is one of only three hospitals nationally to receive this grant. With the additional funds, the hospital plans to increase awareness through a series of community-based and digital initiatives.
Thank you to Dr. Shirley Pinero-Bernardo, Vice-Chair of Pediatrics, Dr. Lourdes Cohen, Director of Neonatology, and Maria Smilios, Director of Nursing-Maternal and Child Services and their staff for organizing this effort and improving the outcomes of patients and families with congenital CMV.