MPs discussed the terrible burden of CMV infection as part of a Westminster Hall debate on hand hygiene in the NHS. The debate was held on Weds 13th Jan 2016.
The debate focussed on the importance of hand hygiene in reducing the incidence of hospital acquired infections such as MRSA. Madeleine Moon MP brought the issue of congenital CMV infection to the Minister's attention:
"I want to bring to the Minister’s attention today a deeply concerning condition that sadly not many people seem to know about, but hand-washing really can make a difference to it. CMV, or cytomegalovirus, is a common virus that can infect anyone. Most people will not know they carry it, but if a pregnant woman contracts the virus, she can pass it on to her unborn child with catastrophic results. Almost 1,000 children are affected by the condition every year. CMV can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Five out of 1,000 babies will die in their first year of life, and two to three babies a day are damaged by CMV, which was identified in 1956 by the same research team that discovered polio, mumps and rubella. There is no vaccine to deal with it, but we can prevent passing it on simply by washing our hands.
CMV is responsible for 25% of childhood hearing loss, as well as for vision loss, physical impairment, ADHD—attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—behavioural and learning difficulties, and cerebral palsy. It is passed on by bodily fluids, mainly saliva and urine, often from small children. It is battled simply by washing hands in soap and water and by getting parents to understand that they must not share food, cutlery or drinks with their children. No parents, I hope, would think of changing a child’s nappy without washing their hands, but how many parents wipe a child’s nose without thinking to use a handwashing sanitiser or washing their hands. Parents should ensure that they wash their hands both before and after feeding a child. Those are simple ways to prevent dramatic changes."
The Shadow Minister for Health Justin Madders also acknowledged the impact of CMV and the role that hygiene precautions can play.
There have been excellent contributions today. My hon. Friend Mrs Moon and Jim Shannon rightly said that washing hands after coughing and sneezing is such a simple thing to do, yet so many of us fail to do it. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend mentioned the devastating effects that CMV can have, and how easily it can be prevented.
It's great to see MPs talking about CMV. We now need more action to get the information out to pregnant women.
The Handz campaign was also highlighted during the debate. Led by Andrea Jenkyns this campaign is asking MPs to sign up and teach school children in their constituency about good hand hygiene. Have you asked your MP to join the campaign yet? You can email using the Handz website.