Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Moms and Drs Find Hope: CT Governor Signs Bill on #1 Birth Defects Virus

DATE: June 4, 2015
CONTACT: Lisa Saunders
Parent rep, Congenital CMV Foundation
PO Box 389, Mystic, CT 06355
 Moms and Doctors Find Hope When Connecticut Becomes 2nd State to Pass Bill on #1 Viral Cause of Birth Defects

House Bill 5525 - An Act Concerning Cytomegalovirus: "A screening test for cytomegalovirus for newborns who fail a newborn hearing screening."

Mystic, Conn.— Ever since Lisa Saunders, the parent representative of the Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Foundation, learned Utah became the first state to pass a bill on the leading viral cause of birth defects in 2013, she has been asking Connecticut to become the second. A CMV bill was passed by the House in 2014, but the Senate failed to vote on it before the end of the legislative session. Then it happened--before the end of the 2015 legislative session, the bill finally became law after the Public Health Committee, House (watch representative urge support), then Senate passed it, sending it onto Governor Malloy who signed House Bill 5525: "An Act Concerning Cytomegalovirus" on May 26, 2015.

"With bipartisan support, the legislature approved and the governor signed a bill that will help mitigate the devastating impact that this disease has on families. The bill requires that hospitals and other health care institutions test newborn infants for CMV if they fail a newborn hearing test. This will help parents intervene early and get their newborn child the help it needs,"states a press release issued June 4, 2015, by the State Senate Democrats of the Connecticut General Assembly:

When Saunders and other parents whose children were disabled by congenital CMV, plus those in the medical community who supported the bill, learned the governor had signed the bill, they were ecstatic (see their Public Hearing Testimonies). 

"This is a game-changing step forward in our ability to determine CMV causality and give parents a viable option for early treatment," said Scott R. Schoem, MD, FAAP, Director of Otolaryngology, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Congenital CMV it is the most common cause of nonhereditary sensorineural hearing loss in childhood. In addition to deafness, Congenital Cytomegalovirus (cCMV) causes mental retardation, liver disease, and cerebral palsy as a result of infection in pregnant women‎. According to the CDC, in the U.S.:

  • Every hour, congenital CMV causes one child to become disabled.

  • About 1 in 750 children is born with or develops permanent problems due to congenital CMV infection.

  • More than 5,000 children each year suffer permanent problems caused by congenital CMV.
Saunders, the author of memoir, "Anything But a Dog! The perfect pet for a girl with congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus)," said, “My OB/GYNs didn’t tell me how to prevent congenital CMV, namely by avoiding kissing my toddler near the mouth or sharing food with her, until after my second daughter was born profoundly mentally and physically disabled by the disease. It was then that I received literature stating women who work in daycare, or have a young child in daycare, are at a higher risk for catching it as toddlers are the majority of carriers. While I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I not only had a toddler if my own, I was also running a licensed daycare center in my  home. Nowhere in the licensing literature was there a CMV prevention message. In milder cases, children may lose hearing or struggle with learning, but Elizabeth's case was not a mild one.” Elizabeth died at age 16 during a seizure in 2006.

“We must commit to educating the public about cytomegalovirus so that we can potentially prevent the devastating consequences of this disease on our children," said Brenda K. Balch, MD, Connecticut's American Academy of Pediatrics Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Chapter Champion.

Ronda Rudd Menlove, Ph.D., the representative responsible for passing and enacting the bill in Utah, and co-founder of the Utah CMV Council, said, ”The Connecticut legislation extends important education and protection to families and infants from the devastating effects of CMV. The impact on lives and the reduction of state dollars needed to serve those impaired by CMV is immeasurable. This is an excellent example of the power of an individual in the political process. We in Utah applaud Connecticut lawmakers for listening to Lisa Saunders and acting to protect all children and families." 

Menlove's daughter, Sara Menlove Doutre, co-founder of the Utah CMV Council, has a daughter affected by congenital CMV. Doutre, a special education and early intervention policy consultant, is encouraged by the number of states pursuing CMV legislation and believes that number will continue to grow. She said: "In 2013, one state, Utah, created a CMV awareness and screening program. In 2015, five states proposed legislation. Connecticut follows Utah as the second state to enact legislation and will be followed by Texas and Hawaii, where bills await governors' signatures."

Children born with congenital CMV can be treated if diagnosed early. “CMV infection in newborns can be treated with ganciclovir by IV or valganciclovir by oral route -- treatment reduces hearing loss progression and improves growth and head size/brain growth and improves developmental milestones,” says Dr. Demmler-Harrison of Texas, Director, Congenital CMV Disease Research, Clinic and Registry. According to the article, Valganciclovir for Symptomatic Congenital Cytomegalovirus Disease“Treated infants had fewer developmental delays…than untreated infants”

Stephanie Browning McVicar, Au.D., CCC-A, Utah Department of Health, Director, Early Hearing Detection and Intervention / Cytomegalovirus Public Health Initiative, said, "I am so excited that another state is bringing attention to congenital cytomegalovirus.  Utah is looking forward to partnering with Connecticut in their upcoming endeavors." In addition to testing newborns for CMV if they fail their hearing screen, Utah’s H.B 81 requires CMV prevention brochures for doctors, parents, and daycare providers.

The United States Senate had passed legislation designating the month of June as "National Congenital CMV Awareness Month," while recommending that “more effort be taken to counsel women of childbearing age of the effect this virus can have on their children.” (This occurred through the efforts of Stop CMV.)

To learn more about congenital cytomegalovirus and how to prevent it, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at:

You can print CDC's flyer: What Women Should Know About Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

To see the answers to the most common questions, such as why OB/GYNs don't routinely warn their patients about congenital CMV, why there isn't a vaccine yet, what percentage of people know how to prevent CMV, and how much it costs to care for children disabled by congenital CMV, download the One Page cCMV Fact Sheet plus Bibliography by Lisa Saunders

For a detailed presentation on the disease and testing for it, print the presentation,"Congenital CMV 101: From Prevention to Treatment," by Dr. Michael Cannon of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by clicking on: cCMV 101 Webinar Slides [PDF]. You can hear watch/hear his presentation with the slides at: cCMV 101 Webinar Recording

Lisa Saunders of Mystic, Connecticut, is author of memoir, "Anything But a Dog! The perfect pet for a girl with congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus)," and the parent representative of the Congenital Cytomegalovirus Foundation, which raises awareness about maternal testing for first infection during pregnancy, newborn testing and the need to develop a vaccine (LenorePereira, Ph.D., Professor, Cell and Tissue Biology Department, University of California San Francisco, is the Foundation founder). 

Saunders, an award-winning writer and graduate of Cornell University, is also the author of the children's novel, Ride a Horse Not an Elevator, used by Cornell in their state-wide 4-H program. She is a TV talk show hostthe author of seven books, history columnist for Pathfinder magazine, a part-time historical interpreter at Mystic Seaport, and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Anna Warner Bailey Chapter (Lisa descends from Captain Henry Gale of the American Revolution, a leader in Shays' Rebellion sentenced to hang for treason. Shays' Rebellion led to the U.S. Constitution, which Lisa highlights in her book, Shays' Rebellion: The Hanging of Co-Leader, Captain Henry Gale). Visit Lisa Saunders at:


2015 news coverage of Connecticut and CMV includes:

  • Connecticut passes cytomegalovirus screening law for newbornsClinical Advisor 

    • CT Magazine June 2015 (One Mystic Mother is Trying to Raise Awareness of a Common Virus That Can Have Devastating Consequences for Pregnant Women)


    2009 (Lisa Saunders and CMV)