UK & World News

  • 22 June 2014, 12:16

Mums-To-Be 'In The Dark About Silent Killer'

A new campaign has been launched to highlight the need to protect pregnant women from a virus that can cause miscarriages, physical disabilities, deafness and blindness.

Many people carry CMV (Cytomegalovirus) - dubbed the "silent killer" because many people are unaware they have it - however, it can be extremely dangerous to unborn babies.

It currently affects 1,000 babies every year, a higher number than Down's syndrome, but there is no vaccine or screening programme.

It is normally spread through bodily fluids, so doctors say the best way for pregnant women to protect themselves is to wash their hands thoroughly.

Charity CMV Action, backed by pop star Kimberley Walsh, is trying to raise awareness by getting people to take pictures of their hands with the words "Wash away CMV" written on the palm.

Professor Mike Sharland, children's infections specialist at St George's Hospital in London, told Sky News it is important to raise awareness among parents.

"In pregnancy because your immune system is a little weaker, if you catch the virus, very rarely it can go across to the baby and cause problems for the baby as well," he said.

Fifteen-year-old Alicia Parks caught CMV when she was in her mother's womb.

It left her blind, unable to talk or walk and needing 24-hour care.

Her mother, Mandy, is backing the campaign to raise awareness and believes more needs to be done to support parents,

"Sometimes I think the system brings you down because you fight for everything. You fight to prove that they are worse than a two-year-old or three-year-old or four-year-old, you fight for a disabled grant to adapt your house, you fight the system to prove that you can't go to work because now you're 24/7 looking after someone."

Research is ongoing into a possible vaccine for the future or more accurate screening programme, but at the moment experts insist the best protection for mothers is to wash their hands.

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