BUFFALO, N.Y. - It's a typical weekday morning in the Fitzgerald household. Mom, dad, sister and brother are spending some time together in their play room.
They are talking with each other, which is something they would have never thought twice about until their son, Chief, was diagnosed with profound hearing loss at six weeks old.
"Right away, I started thinking how could this have happened," mom, Marielle, said.
The Fitzgeralds have no family history of hearing loss and by all accounts, Chief was an otherwise healthy baby boy.
As they filtered through doctor after doctor, searching for answers, mom Marielle was doing her own research.
"I came across CMV and I found that it's the leading non-genetic cause of hearing loss and responsible for up to 30 percent of all hearing loss," she explained.
CMV is an acronym for cytomegalovirus. According to the CDC, more than half of adults by age 40 have been infected with the virus.
Most infected do not show signs but an infected mom can pass it to a baby In Utero and the effects of that can be damaging.
Chief is just one case. According to the Fitzgerald's audiologist at Buffalo Hearing and Speech, the range of outcomes is huge.
"We have other kids that they know while mom's pregnant that they have a small head and they come out and can have very tight muscle control, vision impairment, progressive hearing loss," Michelle Dube, an audiologist, explained.
Right now, in the state of New York, CMV is not a standard pregnancy screening and yet the National CMV Foundation says it is the most common congenital viral infection in the U.S., affecting 1 in every 150 babies born each year.
CMV passes through body fluids, like saliva. Doctors cannot say for sure but it is possible that sister Finley picked up the virus in daycare and mom Marielle contracted it while carrying baby Chief. It is something, mom said, that no doctor ever warned her about.
"Like most pregnant women, I did everything I could to ensure a healthy pregnancy," Marielle said. "I followed all of my doctors recommendations to avoid certain foods. I didn't go on a vacation to Florida with our family to avoid Zika, right? But no one probably ever said I should avoid my own daughter's saliva. And if they had, I would have."
Doctors say CMV is not curable but it is preventable.
Both the Fitzgerald family and the specialists at Buffalo Hearing and Speech said if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor about prevention and early CMV screening.
You can find more resources here.
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