Catherine Toms, MD – MPH Student, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Karen Fowler, DrPH – Professor, Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus. Over half of adults have been infected with it, typically experiencing a sore throat, flu-like symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Almost 70% of children <3 years of age have had CMV, especially those in daycare. The virus is transmitted through prolonged exposure to body fluids & can be shed for up to 24 months after the infection’s start. Pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant who have toddlers, work in a childcare center, or work as a healthcare professional in a pediatric setting are at the highest risk of exposure & 30% of mothers who contract CMV shortly before or during pregnancy pass it on to their unborn babies. Congenital CMV (cCMV) is the most common infectious cause of birth defects & developmental disability in the U.S. An effective vaccine is not currently available & experts do not currently recommend universal screening for CMV in pregnant women. Women with clinical symptoms of CMV during pregnancy should be tested for CMV & referred to a specialist for further evaluation, counseling & review of treatment options. CMV-positive newborns demonstrating moderate to severe symptoms at birth should be treated with antiviral drugs. Studies show that rates of cCMV infection are lowered when women are informed about cCMV & adopt behavior measures to reduce contact with bodily fluids from young children. Even though cCMV causes severe illness & disability in more children than HIV/AIDS, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome & neural tube defects, 91% of women have never heard of CMV & health care providers have also been shown to possess inadequate knowledge of cCMV infection. All pregnant women & health care providers should be educated about cCMV & effective preventive measures. At the time of this Innovative Teaching Award, there were no webinars addressing management of cCMV available to health care providers, so this learning module was created through a partnership with Children’s of Alabama & based on the guidelines established by the International cCMV Recommendations Groups to increase knowledge of cCMV among pediatricians in Alabama & throughout the U.S. It is available for CME credit (0.5 hr) in an on-demand concise webinar format (link below).