HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The push to raise awareness about congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), the top cause of non-genetic hearing loss, and the importance of screening all babies, continued Friday as News 8 anchor Ann Nyberg joined state leaders at a press conference in Hartford.
The virus, which is the most dangerous to pregnant women who are around toddlers, can lead to epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, seizures and death in newborns.
“This is a virus that’s had a significant impact on our family and our daughter,” said Laura Capon, a parent with CMV. “My daughter Millicent was born with CMV, I contracted it while I was pregnant with her, unbeknownst to me.”
According to the CDC, about one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV infection. About one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will have long-term health problems, such as hearing loss.
News 8 anchor Ann Nyberg, whose granddaughter, Bevin, was born deaf and diagnosed with congenital CMV, has been a strong advocate for legislation to raise awareness about the infection.
“This is deeply, deeply personal to me,” Nyberg said. “My granddaughter Bevin was born in September of 2022 and was diagnosed with CMV – which sent shockwaves through us all.”
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D-Conn.) Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Jody Terranova and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) spoke alongside Nyberg at Friday’s 11:30 a.m. press conference.
Most families have never heard of CMV until their babies are diagnosed with it. According to the National CMV Foundation, only 9% of women know about the virus.
“It is a really scary time because it is a virus that you know nothing about and its outcomes are so varied,” Capon said.
Most people who get it will be asymptomatic, but it can be dangerous for pregnant women and cause blindness, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism in infants.
CMV is not airborne but rather is spread through infected saliva entering the mouth. It can be avoided by not sharing toothbrushes, water bottles or food.
Connecticut leaders passed a bill at the last legislative session that requires every newborn in the state to be universally screened for CMV starting in the summer of 2025. Officials said that Connecticut is the second state in the nation to pass such a law.
“Between now and 2025, parents ought to insist that their kids are screened for it because if they do, they can stop a devastating and catastrophic condition,” Blumenthal said.
“I, along with so many others, are pushing to see that babies have a chance,” Nyberg said. “We are speaking up for them and their families.”