By Sharon Wood
Congenital cytomegalovirus infection (CMV) is a leading cause of birth defects (Dollard et al 2007, Kenneson & Cannon 2007), yet anecdotal evidence suggests that the general public has a low awareness of the virus and health care professionals are unlikely to counsel pregnant women about the risks of infection. Taking simple hygiene measures during pregnancy could reduce instances of cytomegalovirus infection and lead to a reduction in birth defects, miscarriages and stillbirths.
This paper will present the results of two studies designed to assess knowledge of and attitudes towards CMV among maternal health professionals and pregnant women. The results demonstrate the need to increase knowledge about CMV infection among the general public and identify midwives as being well placed and willing to provide information on risk reduction to pregnant women.
We therefore recommend that information on risk reduction should be routinely made available to pregnant women in the UK and that midwives should be trained in how to deliver this information.
Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that belongs to the herpes virus family (NHS Choices 2014). It can be passed between people through contact with bodily fluids such as saliva and urine. In most cases, CMV does not cause symptoms in adults and children, although some people may experience mild flu-like symptoms. Many people come into contact with CMV during childhood and it is thought that up to 50–80% of adults in UK have been infected. As with other herpes viruses, once a person has been infected with CMV, the virus stays inside their body for the rest of their life but, in most cases, it remains inactive and does not cause any problems. However, CMV infection does pose a risk to babies and pregnant women.
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