WHEAT RIDGE — When Megan Wiedel was pregnant with her second child, she did just as her doctor told her to.
No raw fish. No soft cheeses. No lunch meat.
All along, a much bigger risk — one that her doctor never told her about — loomed.
So, unaware, when Wiedel’s first daughter sniffled, she held her. When Wiedel herself caught a cold in the second trimester, she shrugged it off. And when her second daughter, Anna, was born — at only 5 pounds, full term — and then failed the newborn hearing test, Wiedel and her husband tried not to worry as the pediatrician ordered more tests.
Two weeks later, the results came back. Anna would be deaf for the rest of her life. She might never be able to walk or even hold her head up. It was because she had a virus called CMV.
Wiedel hung up the phone and thought to herself: Why had she never heard about CMV?
“When you talk about it, it seems like it’s really rare,” Wiedel said. “But it’s not. A lot of kids have CMV.”
“That’s the hardest piece for me is that this is a preventable, prevalent, quiet disease.”
But, now, a small community of mothers and medical workers are trying to make CMV awareness a little less quiet.
At Children’s Hospital Colorado, physician assistant Shannon Hughes has developed an outpatient clinic for kids dealing with the aftereffects of CMV. The clinic has served about 40 kids in the past two years. Nearly all of the parents she meets had never heard of CMV before finding out that it would forever alter their children’s lives.
“Obviously, that has a big impact on them emotionally that they think they did something wrong and should have prevented it,” she said.
Neonatal nurse practitioner Erin Mestas, who also works at Children’s as well as at Poudre Valley Hospital, is also trying to raise awareness among both mothers and health care workers about CMV.
In some ways, CMV’s ubiquity accounts for its invisibility.
Most adults have been exposed to CMV at some point in their lifetimes, meaning they have antibodies to fight off a new CMV infection. For women with CMV antibodies, then, being exposed to the virus while pregnant is usually no big deal.