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Q&A about CMV; the leading cause of hearing loss in babies

Congenital CMV is a common virus that can be dangerous to unborn babies.

CMV is a leading cause of birth defects in the UK and is the leading preventable cause of hearing loss in babies.

Most people won’t even know they have CMV but if a pregnant woman contracts the virus, she can pass it on to her unborn child with catastrophic results.

CMV or cytomegalovirus (si-to-MEG-alo-vi-rus) can infect anyone. In the UK 2 to 3 babies will be damaged by CMV every day, that’s almost 1000 babies every year.

How common is CMV?

It is more common than Downs Syndrome and it’s more than 30 times as common as toxoplasmosis (the cat poo one) or listeriosis (the blue cheese one), yet far fewer women have heard of it than of these conditions.

What are the risks of CMV?

CMV infection is responsible for around 25% of childhood hearing loss.

CMV can also cause miscarriage or stillbirths in pregnant women.

Other disabilities include:

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Epilepsy

  • Physical impairment

  • Vision loss

  • ADHD

  • Behavioural and learning difficulties

CMV is spread through bodily fluids so the chance of getting a CMV infection from casual contact is very small. A lot of small children catch CMV, especially those who attend nurseries. Women who work with children or who have a family already need to be especially careful during pregnancy.

The main way women catch CMV is from the saliva and urine of small children.

How can you Reduce the Risks?

The risk of catching CMV can be reduced by simple hygiene precautions:

  • Don’t Share - Avoid sharing food, drinks, cutlery or dummies with anyone.

  • Wash with Care - Wash hands and any items that have come into contact with bodily fluids with soap and water e.g., after feeding, wiping nose, changing nappy. The CMV virus is destroyed by soap and water.

  • Kiss on the Head instead - Avoid kissing on the mouth; kiss on the head or give them a big hug.

How can I find out more about CMV?

  • Visit CMVAction website to find out more about CMV and how we can support you.

  • Call their helpline: 0808 802 0030

  • Email them at:

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