Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ways to Share CMV Prevention Tips to End #1 Birth Defects Virus--have any ideas?

Can you think of ways to share CMV (cytomegalovirus) prevention tips in honor of June as National Cytomegalovirus Month? 

Some of you have been posting one CMV fact a day on your Facebook pages--good idea! At the bottom of this post, I include links to flyers from the CDC, etc., that you may wish to send out. 

I got the idea to create the above CMV prevention goody bags for the children at Riverfront Children's Center in Groton, Connecticut, from Jessica Rachels of the Idaho CMV Advocacy Project who donated goody bags to her local head start programs. In my bags, which the curriculum director said might be something the staff could work into their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) theme*, I followed my motto, "Share a Meal, Not the Germs!" My goal is to teach children, their families, and child care staff the importance washing hands before setting the table and eating, and to never share cups, etc, through my "color-me-in" fairytale, Once Upon a Placemat: A table Setting Tale. In addition to what the children got in their bags (coloring book, crayons, plastic tableware, bathroom sink sign and Placemat with tableware characters), I gave the staff a different bathroom sink sign to remind them that diaper wipes do not kill CMV! (See:

You can write an article about CMV and ask your local media to publish it. Mine, "June: National Cytomegalovirus Month: Had I Known (about CMV)," was published in the magazine, Groton-Mystic Neighbors (June 2018). This coverage resulted in an invitation to speak at the local chapter of the teacher's sorority, ADK.

When I contacted Connecticut's News 8 about June and CMV, a reporter and cameraman came to my home to discuss it with Dr. Brenda Balch and the singer/songwriter, Debra Lynn Alt. The News 8 reporter, Sarah Cody, created a short video to promote her upcoming CMV coverage:  Here is the full interview with Debra's CMV song played throughout:

Another way to raise awareness is through music. My friend, singer/songwriter Debra Lynn Alt, was shocked to learn there are so many mothers of children born disabled by CMV who never heard of CMV when pregnant--never been given the chance to protect their unborn babies. She felt inspired to write and release the song, "Had I Known (about CMV) in June, which was featured on CT's News 8The studio recording of the CMV song, with Debra Lynn Alt as lead vocalist, includes keyboard and harmony vocals by another friend, Connie Howard, mandolin and guitar (Jim Carpenter), violin (Stacy Phillips), cello (Ann West), and bass (Jeff Fuller). It can be heard at this link: (recorded at Loco Dare Productions, Niantic, Connecticut).   

Another way to show the media how important their coverage of CMV is, is to write a letter to the editor to keep the topic "hot." The following one of mine was accepted for publication when I commented on the article, "Drs. Effie Siomos and Ken Ostermann: Learn about and take precautions to prevent CMV" (June 16, 2018): 

Dear Editor: 
Thank you for sharing the "inconvenient truth" about CMV (cytomegalovirus), the leading viral cause of birth defects, which causes more disabilities than Zika and fetal alcohol syndrome. It's an inconvenient truth because women who care for young children are at highest risk. Not only are mothers of toddlers unaware they should never kiss their toddlers around the mouth or share food, cups and utensils with them, but very few states tell their child care workers they have an occupational risk for CMV. I'm a former Maryland licensed child care provider who never heard of CMV until after my daughter Elizabeth was born severely disabled by congenital CMV in 1989.
The March of Dimes states: “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.”
Many women who care for young children use diaper wipes to save time when cleaning up bodily fluids such as saliva and urine. Diaper wipes do not kill CMV! Wash hands with soap and water, and if that's not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Who will tell child care providers the truth about CMV in toddlers? Who will tell mothers of toddlers in group care that they, too, are at increased risk for CMV?
Lisa Saunders
Mystic, Connecticut

I provided the editor of the above publication the following sources for my above comments:


  • Caregivers of young children are at increased risk for CMV, the leading birth defects virus that disables 4,000 babies each year in the U.S. (Centers      for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • 44 - 100% of two-year-olds in group daycare are excreting CMV (Pass et al., 1986).
  • Diaper wipes do not kill CMV (Stowella et al., 2014 ).
  • 8 - 20% of child care providers contract CMV infection every year (AAP et al., 2011) VERSUS 1-4% in general population (CDC).   
  • Mothers of children in group care are also at increased risk for CMV (Pass et al., 1986).
  • 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 (Thackeray et al., 2016).
  • “Women may be able to lessen their risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children. Some ways to do this are: kissing children on the cheek or head rather than the lips, and washing hands after changing diapers. These cannot eliminate your risk of getting     CMV, but may lessen your chances of getting it” states the CDC. Download this flyer from the CDC:

GENERAL LIST of CMV Prevention 

1. "Staff Education and Policies on Cytomegalovirus (CMV)," American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) et al., Caring for Our Children: Available as a pdf: file:///C:/Users/Lisa/Downloads/CFOC_3rd_7_7_1_1.pdf

3. National CMV Foundation features several types of CMV flyers for downloading and hanging on your wall such as:

4. CDC’s CMV info available in English and Spanish:
Español: Acerca del citomegalovirus:

5. Check your state’s childcare care licensing department, department of health, department of labor, and local universities with occupational medicine and public health programs. CMV is a bloodborne Pathogen. See Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for bloodborne pathogens:

6. Handwashing: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a video and posters on handwashing procedures and what to do if soap and water are not available:

7. provides factsheet on CMV and mentions childcare workers:

9. "The Danger of Spreading CMV: How We Can Protect Our Children" by Lisa Saunders published by ChildCare Aware of America (June 2017).

10. Utah created English/Spanish brochures specifically for childcare providers:

11. Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) website has flyers and information: The National CMV Foundation allowed the CT DPH to embed their logo in their “Are You Pregnant” National CMV Awareness Flyer.

For social media, a photo of the flyer will be easier to share. Find the jpeg of “Are You Pregnant” by the National CMV Foundation at:

If you need a pdf of the above flyer with information relevant for childcare providers from CT DPH, then:

12. Article, “Help Childcare Providers Fight CMV” by Lisa Saunders published by National CMV Foundation (March 5, 2018)

13. NAEYC: National Association for the Education of Young Children and its "Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Criteria and Guidance for Assessment (10.D.01, p.91)" includes: "a. steps to reduce occupational hazards such as infectious diseases (e.g., exposure of pregnant staff to CMV [cytomegalovirus], chicken pox)..." Find their accredited childcare centers/preschools

14. Need CMV articles? See my Bibliography at:

15. Song for mothers who learned too late about protecting their unborn child from congenital CMV--"Had I Known (about CMV): by Debra Lynn Alt

        Materials produced by the "ChildCare Providers Fighting CMV" project

        1) Above-sink wall flyer on hand-washing, "Share a Meal Not the Germs" 
        Colored in version of wall sign, "Share a Meal Not the Germs" :

        Above-sink wall flyer for hand-washing, "Diaper Wipes Don't Kill CMV"

        For children to color in version: "Share a Meal Not the Germs":

        2) Wall Flyer For Women Who Care for Toddlers: 

        3) Fun Teaching Tool Kit for Students and Families: Fairytale tells how to “Share a Meal, Not the Germs.” 
        a. An educational “coloring book, Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale by Lisa Saunders and Jackie Tortora. Free pdf version of Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale (or the educational fairy tale can be purchased as a bound coloring book, visit Amazon for $5.38).
        b. Placemats: Side one: Placemat with tableware characters with space for your coloring artist's name (perfect for laminating and using as a table-setting reminder):
        c. Side two: Germ prevention tips and hand-washing instructions.

        5) Book, Help Childcare Providers Fight CMV: People can click here for the free 133-page pdf manuscript or at:

        6) PowerPoint Presentation:" Help Childcare Providers Fight CMV": Available as:

        c. YouTube Presentation by Lisa Saunders:

        7) Warning Photograph for Wall/Sharing on Social Media:

        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).
        I asked the curriculum director what she meant by STEAM. She told me STEAM is a popular way to better package and present the interconnectedness of  Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math in the regular curriculum. She said, "Too many times people treat these topics as mutually exclusive, when they all work to support the learner and their personal method of learning.  I was thinking that when you talk about germs, your book (Art and Literacy), which appeals to the children that have strengths in those areas, and introduces germs (science, biology) in a format that integrates the arts.  Drawing and writing activities can be planned to further integrate those domains.  Teachers can further bring in Technology and engineering by designing activities that help the children to "invent" equipment or machines to help better wash hands, keep food fresh and germ free, etc.  Math can enter into the plan by graphing how long children wash there hands, how often they wash their hands, keep track how many uses the classrooms get out of a single pump bottle of hand soap, etc...That's just a quick example of how your topic can be enhanced by identifying the STEAM components in the concept of germs and health.  With a little more thought (and a few trips to Pinterest!) lots of germ based activities can be created and integrated."

        Thursday, June 14, 2018

        Former lead singer for the Rolling Stone Magazine House Band Releases Song to Help Stop CMV, #1 Birth Defects Virus

        Debra Lynn Alt and Lisa Saunders

        Former lead singer for the Rolling Stone Magazine House Band, Debra Lynn Alt, Releases Song to Help Mom, Lisa Saunders, Stop #1 Birth Defects Virus

        WTNH News 8 features song to raise CMV awareness

        Mystic, Conn: Debra Lynn Alt released a new song,  "Had I Known (about CMV)", in June to help stop the leading viral cause of birth defects, congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV).  June is National Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month. The U.S. Senate states that "more effort be taken to counsel women of childbearing age of the effect this virus can have on their children." 
        Alt has contributed other songs for causes and now wants to call attention to this little-known, preventable disease, inspired by the death of her friend’s daughter, Elizabeth Saunders. She composed "Had I Known (about CMV)"  to help convey how a mother feels when she learns her newborn's disabilities might have been prevented had she known about CMV. The story got the attention of  reporter Sarah Cody atWTNH News 8  who wanted to help expound upon the power of a song to bring attention to congenital CMV. 
        After learning about CMV from Lisa Saunders who contracted the disease while pregnant with Elizabeth, Alt partnered with Saunders with the song to help build a well-needed platform of attention to this virus that causes more disabilities than Zika and fetal alcohol syndrome. The March of Dimes states: “As much as 70% of children between 1 and 3 of age who go to day care may have CMV. They can pass it on to their families, caretakers and other children.”  
        Congenital CMV can cause premature birth, hearing and vision loss, small head size, lack of coordination, seizures and death. According to the CDC, "Pregnant women may be able to lessen, but not eliminate, their risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children. Some ways to do this are: kissing children on the cheek or head rather than the lips, and washing hands after changing diapers."  
        Mothers of toddlers in group care and child care providers are at increased risk for CMV. Saunders was a licensed child care provider unaware of her occupational risk for CMV. She also hadn’t heard of the precautions she should have taken around her own toddler. To try to prevent that from happening to other child care providers, Saunders launched the “ChildCare Providers Fighting CMV Project" to offer the free online, family-friendly CMV prevention tool kit, “Share a Meal, Not the Germs,” that includes her CMV-fighting, "color-me-in" fairy tale, "Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale."  The story teaches germ prevention by featuring Miss Cup's distress when people share her without giving her a bath first and teaches table-setting, which includes hand-washing first, by featuring Mr. Knife's fear of the dish running away with the spoon, which is why Mr. Knife is placed between the plate and the spoon with his teeth facing the plate.
        Brenda K. Balch, MD, Connecticut's American Academy of Pediatrics Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Chapter Champion, also collaborates with Saunders on CMV prevention. She says, "We must commit to educating the public about cytomegalovirus so that we can potentially prevent the devastating consequences of this disease on our children." Along with Saunders, Balch was instrumental in getting the 2016 CMV law passed in Connecticut that requires newborns be tested for CMV if they fail their hearing test.

        Approximately 8 - 20% of child care providers contract CMV infection every year (AAP et al., 2011) VERSUS 1-4% in general population (CDC).  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), states: "With current knowledge on the risk of CMV infection in child care staff members and the potential consequences of gestational CMV infection, child care staff members should receive counseling in regard to the risks of acquiring CMV from their primary health care provider. However, it is also important for the child care center director to inform infant caregivers/teachers of the increased risk of exposure to CMV during pregnancy."   
        CMV can be transmitted via contact with bodily fluids such as urine, saliva and mucus. To save time after changing diapers, many childcare providers use diaper wipes to remove bodily fluids from hands and surfaces, but diaper wipes do not kill CMV.  In a 2016 survey, only 18.5% of licensed “in-home” daycare providers have heard of CMV  (Thackeray et al., 2016). A 2018 University of Connecticut nationwide survey confirmed that child care providers are still largely unaware of congenital CMV (cCMV): "Consistent with previous research, child care providers do not have knowledge regarding CMV or cCMV" (DeWald et al., 2018).
        The recording of this song, with Debra Lynn Alt as lead vocalist, includes keyboard and harmony vocals (Connie Howard), mandolin and guitar (Jim Carpenter), violin (Stacy Phillips), cello (Ann West), and bass (Jeff Fuller). It can be heard at this link: (recorded at Loco Dare Productions, Niantic, Connecticut). 
        News 8 reporter, Sarah Cody, created an additional CMV prevention video on her Facebook link here:
        Only a handful of states, such as Utah and Idaho, have CMV awareness protocols to inform and protect their child care workers from CMV. Concerned citizens can learn if their state is doing anything to prevent birth defects from congenital CMV at:    To locate your state's child care licensing departments to learn of they are following the recommendations made by the AAP, which can be found at: 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). Visit her at     Subscribe for free: Get CMV News 

        1. CMV prevention "color-me-in" Fairytale, Once Upon a Placemat: A Table Setting Tale.
        2. Memoir: Anything But a Dog! The perfect pet for a girl with congenital CMV (Unlimited Publishing 2008, Japan, 2017)
        3. Fairytale about losing a child to illness and finding a way to move forward:Surviving Loss: The Woodcutter’s Tale.
        4. Book for policy makers and child care center directors: Help Childcare Providers Fight CMV

        About Debra Lynn Alt, Singer/Songwriter
        Debra’s career began in New York City in the late 1970’s as the lead singer for the Rolling Stone Magazine houseband. Since then she has performed in a variety of venues on the East Coast, in bands and accompanying herself on keyboard and guitar. Her third CD of mostly original songs was produced in Nashville, TN as part of a compilation of award winning photography, illustrated by the lyrics of her song inspired by cancer survivors. Each Moment We’re Alive was sung at a Hay House Publishing Conference at the bequest of Dr. Wayne Dyer, followed by his glowing endorsement on the cover of her book. The song and book has led to cancer support workshops, organizations and events facilitating survivor support and coaching. Debra has been commissioned to write songs, and continues to contribute her music and performances at events to enhance fundraising and awareness for child abuse, Habitat for Humanity, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, autism, and most recently CMV Awareness. A recipient of community service awards, her work has been featured on TV and radio interviews, podcasts, and at hospice, community centers, benefits and musical theater. A resident of North Branford CT, Debra is currently working on a show and memoir entitled “Something to Sing About”, in tandem with her ongoing studies and interest in how giving voice to personal challenges can embody and enhance a wide spectrum of healing realms. To contact or learn more about Debra visit her at