Infection during pregnancy can cause hearing loss in unborn child

Local News

CLINTON, Utah (ABC4News) – Pregnant women during this time of year, need to exercise extra caution to avoid getting a virus that could be passed on to their unborn child. It’s a virus, doctors say could cause hearing loss and brain damage. 

Katie Hanks, of Clinton, was concerned when her newborn baby didn’t pass his hearing test.
After a few more rounds of testing they found Tanner’s hearing loss was permanent, and likely caused by cytomegalovirus or CMV.

It can happen during pregnancy and transferred to the fetus.

“I had no idea what that was. It was super overwhelming finding out that our brand new baby had hearing loss and might have this virus that could cause a whole bunch of issues for him,” said Hanks.

Albert Park, Ear Nose, and Throat Doctor at University of Utah School of Medicine and Primary Children’s Hospital says the outcomes are similar to the zika virus that include hearing loss, small heads, and brain damage, yet people don’t know about.

“It can cause devastating complications and problems. It’s the most common infections children can be exposed to. A common scenario we see is a mother who’s pregnant who has a toddler in daycare who gets the infection,” said Park. 

The toddler may be fine, in fact, Dr. Park says, 85 percent of people infected won’t have complications, but it can be devastating to the unborn child. When CMV is not addressed it can affect a child’s development of speech, language, and social skills.

An antiviral medication is available.

Dr. Park says it can prevent further hearing loss and brain damage. Dr. Park is now involved in an NIH-funded clinical trial in Utah and other sites across the country to study the effects of the medicine and how it may benefit kids with a less severe infection from the
virus.

Utah was the first state to pass a law, 5 years ago, mandating newborns who fail their hearing exam be tested for the CMV infection.

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