A bill aimed at raising awareness about a little known, but common virus that can lead to serious health problems and disabilities, is moving through the Statehouse.
Legislation that would require the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare develop an educational program on cytomegalovirus or CMV, passed the House Health and Welfare Committee Monday.
CMV can cause everything from hearing and vision loss to cerebral palsy, and it can even be deadly. The virus is transmitted through body fluid, most easily from saliva. Most people infected with it never show signs or symptoms, but it can cause serious problems for people with a weakened immune system and unborn babies.
Rebekah Hall is member of the Idaho CMV Advocacy Project and her daughter was born with CMV.
"The CMV virus can pass the placental barrier and can infect an unborn child and can result in all kinds of difficulties including microcephaly, other types of brain damage, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, vision loss all types of long-term and serve disabilities,” Hall said.
Jessica and Patrick Rachels from Sandpoint also have a daughter born with CMV and are active with the Idaho CMV Advocacy project.
"She's very giggly, she's got a beautiful smile and laugh, her favorite game is peek-a-boo,” Jessica said about her daughter Natalie.
The Rachels say the virus has caused serious health problems for Natalie including cerebral palsy, hearing loss and feeding issues.
"She's been through ten surgeries, multiple therapies,” Patrick said,
Jessica was a childcare provider when she was pregnant with Natalie, and had never heard of CMV.
"If I had had the information, the education, the knowledge then I would have washed my hands more, I would have gloved up more,” she said. “Being a childcare provider your exposure rate is pretty high.”
According to the National CMV Foundation, one out of three pregnant women who become infected with CMV pass it on to their unborn child. There are precautions women can take, but advocates say the problem is not many people know about CMV. So the Idaho CMV Advocacy Project is trying to pass legislation that would educate Idahoans on the virus.
"We wanted to be Natalie's voice. It's too late for her but it isn't too late for all the other children, " Jessica said.