CMV Action's response to the shocking CMV story in this weeks tabloids, including the Daily Mail, Mirror and The Sun. This has also been sent to the Sunderland Echo where the article first appeared.
We would urge you to share our response on all the social media channels including Facebook and Twitter.
Makes us realise just how much work there is to do!
As Chair of a national charity CMV Action that supports children born with CMV, I am very sad to read about Bryant’s experiences and find out that yet again the facts about CMV have been misunderstood. We deal with a few cases every year where children have been wrongly excluded from school. This boy is not a special case and this should not happen.
CMV, or Cytomegalovirus, is a common virus that can infect people of all ages. Healthy adults and children will often have no signs or symptoms, and no long-term effects from CMV. However it can be dangerous to unborn babies if a pregnant woman catches it for the first time and passes the virus on to her unborn child.
As you state in your article, once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life. Whilst around 1% of children are born with it, by the age of 5 around 25% of children will have been infected. By secondary school age this will be even higher and around 80% of people will catch it at some point in their lifetime.
It is therefore not a rare disease that pregnant women can easily isolate themselves from. At least a quarter of children in any secondary school will carry it. Excluding the one child who is known to be a carrier is not going to remove the risk for pregnant members of staff. Any of the other children they teach could also carry it. Moreover CMV can only be transmitted though exchange of bodily fluids, not through casual contact. Research has also confirmed that the virus is deactivated by washing with soap and water. Simple hygiene precautions can and should be used to reduce risks.
A responsible employer is absolutely right to assess risks and fulfil their duty of care to staff. However we advise schools to manage this risk by:
1) Minimising the potential for pregnant members of staff to come into contact with children’s bodily fluids (which is a lot easier with a 14 year old than a toddler!)
2) Ensuring ALL staff are informed of the hygiene precautions they should take around ALL children (remember male members of staff may have pregnant partners so may also want to minimise their risk of catching it)
I would urge any schools or teachers reading this article not to panic and start unnecessarily excluding children with CMV.
No child should be excluded from school because of a current or past CMV infection. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.cmvaction.org.uk for more detailed advice about how pregnant women can reduce risks of catching the virus. If Bryant’s family read this I would welcome them getting in touch as we may be able to help in advocacy with their local education providers.
Despite being one of the main causes of birth defects in the UK, pregnant women are not routinely warned or educated about CMV.
CMV Action aim to change that.
Chair, CMV Action