Pa. parents could get help with info on infant virus thanks to new legislation

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HARRISBURG–New parents have a lot to worry about when it comes to keeping their children healthy, but they will soon have a new resource to keep them in tune with a dangerous virus.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed into law legislation that establishes newborn screenings for a common, but serious, infant viral infection known as Cytomegalovirus. The CMV Education and Newborn Screening Act is Senate Bill 709.  

What is Cytomegalovirus? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, cytomegalovirus is a common virus, but once infected, your body retains the virus for life. It is thought that between 50 and 80 percent of the population has CMV.  Most people don’t know they have CMV because it rarely causes problems in healthy people. But when infants contract the virus, it can cause serious problems.

What are the Symptoms? 

In babies, the most common sign is hearing loss and developmental delays. Some babies may develop vision problems.  

The following signs and symptoms are more common in babies who have congenital CMV and who are sick at birth: 

  • Premature birth 
  • Low birth weight 
  • Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice) 
  • Enlarged and poorly functioning liver 
  • Purple skin splotches or a rash or both 
  • Abnormally small head (microencephaly) 
  • Enlarged spleen 
  • Pneumonia 
  • Seizures 

Treatment options

Anti-viral medications are the most common type of treatment but there is no cure. Researchers are working to create a vaccine to treat and prevent CMV.

Senate Bill 709 requires the Department of Health to make certain information regarding CMV available on DOH’s website, including incidence of CMV, transmission of CMV to pregnant women and women who may become pregnant, birth defects caused by congenital CMV, methods of diagnosing congenital CMV, available preventative measures, treatment options, and any other information the department deems necessary. 

Health care providers will be required to provide parents or guardians of newborns with information on CMV and to offer a screening or referral within 21 days if the newborn child fails the initial newborn hearing screening.