“CMV and Licensed Daycare Providers”
CMV is often found in child care centers. I was unaware that cytomegalovirus (CMV) was an occupational risk for daycare educators when I became a licensed home daycare provider in Maryland in 1987. I didn’t know that CMV could devastate my pregnancy with Elizabeth, who was born severely disabled by congenital CMV in 1989.
At the time of Elizabeth’s birth, I was operating my licensed home daycare center and volunteering in our church nursery, additionally putting my pregnancy at risk. Elizabeth was born with an abnormally small head, was profoundly mentally impaired, legally blind, and had cerebral palsy. After her birth, I was given information from the Centers and Disease Control Prevention (CDC) informing me that "People who care for or work closely with young children may be at greater risk of CMV infection than other people because CMV infection is common among young children..." Nowhere in my daycare licensing training was CMV mentioned. CMV prevention measures were not discussed in my prenatal doctor visits.
Though Elizabeth grew into a very cheerful girl who won the "Best Smiling Award" at school, she couldn't hold up her head and lived as a three-month-old for 16 years, requiring several surgeries such as spinal fusion. She developed epilepsy and was gradually losing her hearing by the time she died at 16 during a seizure in 2006 while we were living in New York. I had a bad dream shortly after Elizabeth’s death about new parents wondering why I hadn’t done more to warn them about the precautions to take against CMV. Although I wrote about Elizabeth’s adventurous life with her tomboy sister and a series of dysfunctional pets, including a homeless older dog that joined her on the couch in my memoir, “Anything But a Dog: the perfect pet for a girl with congenital CMV,” congenital CMV still remains largely unknown.
In 2010, my husband and I moved to Connecticut. In 2012, I received an email from a distressed grandmother about her grandson born with congenital CMV in a Connecticut hospital (I am the parent representative of the Congenital Cytomegalovirus Foundation). The mother of her grandson was a high school student interning in a Connecticut daycare center. The young mother, just like me over 20 years earlier, was unaware she was putting her pregnancy at greater risk by working in daycare with young children. When I visited the family in the hospital, the attending nurse asked me, "Knowing what you do about CMV, why haven’t you launched an awareness campaign?"
I explained to the nurse that CMV parents, scientists and doctors have been trying for years to raise awareness, but the real risk of CMV to pregnancies remains little discussed—a real tragedy for daycare workers given that every year, 8 - 20% of caregivers/teachers contract cytomegalovirus (CMV). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends counseling caregivers of their increased exposure to CMV, importance of hand-washing, and avoiding contact with urine, saliva, and nasal secretions. Mothers of children in daycare are also at increased risk for CMV (Pass et al., 1986).
I continue to warn daycare providers wherever I can. Please share my article published by ChildCare Aware of America: The Danger of Spreading CMV: How We Can Protect Our Children.