• Local doctors see increase in hearing loss virus among newborns

    By: Sarahbeth Ackerman

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Doctors in Central Florida said they're seeing an increase in newborns and young children infected with a hearing loss virus they catch in the womb.

    Doctors said the Cytomegalovirus can show up right after birth or take years to materialize.

    An expectant mother can become infected without even knowing it. 

    Samantha Isaacs, a mother of four, said she had no complications with any of her pregnancies. 

    But when her son, Hank, now 3, was born, things changed. 

    "Day two at the hospital, they did a newborn hearing test and Hank's right ear would pass but his left ear would not," said Isaacs. 

    Hank Isaacs was born with Cytomegalovirus, which caused him to lose hearing
    Hank Isaacs was born with Cytomegalovirus, which caused him to lose hearing
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    Isaacs was told Hank might have fluid in his ears due to a Ceserean- section, but months later, Isaacs found out her son's life was about to change.  

    "It was October 21. It was one of those moments in your life that you don't forget what day it was,” she said. 

    Hank was diagnosed with CMV, a hearing loss virus. 

    Dr. Kenneth Alexander, the chief of infectious diseases at Nemours Children's Hospital said this virus is common and hearing can be lost in the womb, after birth or years later.

    The hard part is, expectant moms never know they've picked it up.

    "We know that probably the most common way mothers get CMV is from their own children. How do you get it from your children? It can be exposure to things like saliva,” said Alexander. 

    Alexander said the mother can also pick it up from catching a cold, or coming into contact with bodily fluids from a child, or an adult partner.

    "Not knowing was the hard part, the guilt association. That I could have prevented that had I known," Isaacs said.

    Forty to 60 percent of the children who do come down with the virus, will have long-term problems, including Hank.

    "It's vision loss, it's seizures. Hank has a brain malformation because of this virus,” said Isaacs.

    There is no cure for the virus, however, once the baby is born, there are treatments to prevent it from getting worse.

    An uptick in the cytomegalovirus is now forcing lawmakers in states across the country to look at potential legislation that would require education and early detection screenings.

    Lawmakers in nine states have already passed legislation, and six more states have proposed legislation.
     
    Lawmakers in Florida have discussed the issue, but nothing has been proposed.

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