Monday, May 21, 2018

June Launch: “ChildCare Providers Fighting CMV Project”

CMV warning sign produced by Rebekah Hall of the Idaho CMV Advocacy Project

Mother of Disabled Daughter Launches “ChildCare Providers Fighting CMV Project” to Protect Newborns from #1 Birth Defects Virus

Lisa Saunders created a free online CMV prevention tool kit that includes bathroom signs, color-me-in fairytale, placemats, PowerPoint presentation, and song to teach schools and families how to “share a meal, not the germs.”

Mystic, Conn.—Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the leading viral cause of birth defects, annually disabling 4,000 newborns each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Although congenital CMV causes more disabilities than Zika and fetal alcohol syndrome, women are largely unaware of how to prevent it.  Because mothers of children in group care and child care providers are at increased risk (Pass et al, 1986), Lisa Saunders, a former licensed child care provider, is launching the “ChildCare Providers Fighting CMV Project."

Every year, 8 - 20% of caregivers/teachers contract CMV according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that caregivers/teachers be counseled about CMV by their healthcare providers and daycare center directors. Saunders, the author of "The Danger of Spreading CMV: How We Can Protect Our Children" (ChildCare Aware of America, 2017), is launching the Project in June in honor of National Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month. The “ChildCare Providers Fighting CMV Project” provides a free online CMV prevention tool kit, which includes bathroom sink signs, the color-me-in fairytale, Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale, and a PowerPoint presentation to teach schools and families how to “share a meal, not the germs." 

Singer/songwriter Debra Lynn Alt of North Branford  has donated her new song, "Had I Known (about CMV)," to the online tool kit to help convey how a mother feels when she learns her newborn's disabilities might have been prevented had she known about CMV. Debra debuted her song on the Lisa Saunders Show in March 2018.

Congenital (present at birth) CMV can cause premature birth, hearing and vision loss, small head size, lack of coordination, seizures, and death, according to the CDCThe CDC states, "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."

“We must commit to educating the public about cytomegalovirus so that we can potentially prevent the devastating consequences of this disease on our children," says Brenda K. Balch, MD, American Academy of Pediatrics Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Chapter Champion. Congenital CMV is the most common cause of nonhereditary sensorineural hearing loss in childhood. Saunders and Balch were instrumental in getting the 2016 CMV law passed in Connecticut that requires newborns be tested for CMV if they fail their hearing screen. Balch is a co-author of the recent University of Connecticut study, "National Child Care Provider's Awareness of Congenital Cytomegalovirus (cCMV)," that concluded, "Consistent with previous research, child care providers do not have knowledge regarding CMV or cCMV." (Olivia DeWald B.A., Casey Turovac B.A., Brenda Balch, M.D., and Kathleen Cienkowski, Ph.D., 2018).  

The mission of the Childcare Providers Fighting CMV Project is to educate women who care for toddlers on how to reduce the spread of CMV to protect their pregnancies. Saunders says her project is needed “because CMV prevention education is not a doctor’s 'standard of care,’ there is no federal law to ensure child care workers receive CMV prevention education, and there is presently no vaccine. Although I was a licensed child care provider and the mother of a toddler, I was unaware of CMV until my daughter, Elizabeth, was born severely disabled because I contracted the virus when pregnant. One of the education materials I created is for the whole family, my light-hearted fairytale, ''Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale.' It's importance that children, along with their parents, learn the importance of washing their hands before eating and setting the table, and to NEVER share their cups and utensils with each other.”

Why you should be concerned about the lack of CMV awareness: 
  • “Despite being the leading cause of mental retardation and disability in children, there are currently no national public awareness campaigns to educate expecting mothers about congenital CMV” states Clinical Advisor in “Educate pregnant women to prevent congenital CMV” (2014).
  • Only 18.5% of licensed “in-home” daycare providers surveyed have heard of CMV and “Providers do not know how to appropriately sanitize surfaces to reduce spread of disease.” Many use diaper wipes to clean surfaces, which do not sanitize“Increasing risk perception is important because providers may not be concerned about taking measures to reduce the probability of infection if they feel that they are at low risk” (Thackeray et al., 2016).
  • Only a few states, such as Utah and Idaho, are providing CMV prevention education for their child care workers.  Other countries, Germany and Queensland, Australia, have a very definite protocol to protect their child care workers. 
  • According to the March of Dimes, “As many as 7 in 10 children (70 percent) between 1 and 3 years of age who go to day care may have CMV. They can pass it on to their families, caretakers and other children.”  
  • “61 % of children under the age of 5 are cared for in a child care facility...Intervening with child care providers and parents through child care facilities are key opportunities to reduce prevalence of CMV infection and other diseases.” (Thackeray et al., 2016).
The ChildCare Providers Fighting CMV Project disseminates materials to child care directors, families, and policy makers through a free online tool kit and through workshops, health fairs, books and articles.  The tool kit can be retrieved from and includes links to flyers from the CDC, National CMV Foundation, and the Connecticut Department of Public Health along with a suggested lesson plan and ideas for a “Share a Meal, Not the Germs” picnic kit, which can be seen below:

You can picnic while teaching CMV prevention! Teach children (and their parents) how to set the table and "share a meal, not the germs" to end the #1 birth defects virus, cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Suggested lesson plan for children: Read aloud the fairytale, "Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale," available as a free pdf by clicking here, then share a meal together (you can watch the author introduce the book and read an excerpt by clicking here). Help the children wash their hands and set their place setting by referring to the characters in Once Upon a Placemat. You can say things like, "Remember, Mr. Knife is afraid the dish will run away with the spoon, so put his teeth toward Mr. Plate" and "Miss Cup hates it when people share her without giving her a bath first because of those naughty germs." If possible, give each child a "Share a Meal, Not the Germs" picnic kit with these suggested items:  
  • Bag (paper or reusable insulated bag).
  • Plate, cup, napkin, fork, spoon, knife.
  • Crayons or washable markers.
  • Placemat with tableware characters (free pdf for coloring and possible laminating).
  • Picnic food (homemade or prepackaged that would use all utensils, such as peanut butter, crackers, applesauce and cake).
  • Hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. 
  • Sink hand-washing sign and tri-fold flyer on CMV prevention to take home.
  • If funds are available, give a child their own bound copy of Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale to color and share with their families so their parents can reinforce the table-setting lesson and learn how to prevent CMV, the #1 birth defects virus, as well as other diseases (book available on Amazon for $5.38).
Jessica Rachels of Idaho is a mother creating CMV prevention goody bags, which includes the book, "Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale,for daycare centers and Early Head Start programs as part of the Idaho CMV Advocacy Project.

Like Saunders, Rachels was a childcare provider unaware of CMV until it was too late to protect her baby. Their stories are told in Chapter 1 of the book, Help Childcare Providers Fight CMV, which can be viewed by clicking on the "Look inside" feature on Amazon at:,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

If you would like to receive or sponsor bound coloring books and printed placemats and flyers for your classroom or family, or to have Lisa Saunders speak to your group, contact her at: or visit:


About Lisa Saunders, Founder, “ChildCare Providers Fighting CMV” 
Lisa Saunders, a former licensed childcare provider and graduate of Cornell University, was instrumental in helping Connecticut pass a CMV testing law in 2015. She is the parent representative of the Congenital Cytomegalovirus Foundation, an award-winning writer, and SEC-TV talk show host living in Mystic, Connecticut, with her husband, Jim. She is the content coordinator for the magazine, Groton-Mystic Neighbors, author of 10 books, and a part-time history interpreter at Mystic Seaport.  Lisa writes extensively about congenital CMV in her books and through articles such as "The Danger of Spreading CMV: How We Can Protect Our Children" (ChildCare Aware of America, 2017) and “Help Childcare Providers Fight CMV” (National CMV Foundation, 2018) Lisa's CMV-related books include:

About Debra Lynn Alt, Singer/Songwriter
Debra Lynn Alt, a former lead singer for the Rolling Stone Magazine House Band, lives in North Branford, Connecticut. Through her music and book, “Each Moment We’re Alive,” Debra reminds us that no matter what happens in life, there’s always something to sing about. Her stories and songs of inspiration and humor range from a New Yorkers' perspective of moving to Connecticut, to her newest gift of music for a cause, “Had I Known (about CMV)”. Debra has also contributed songs for Habitat for Humanity, Cancer Survivors, autism, child abuse, M.A.D.D., adoption, and hope after 9/11. To hear Debra's music or read her work, visit her at To check her availability for performances, contact her at

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