Minnesota begins newborn screenings for a common cause of birth defects
About 1 out of 200 babies are born with congenital cytomegalovirus
ST. PAUL — Minnesota will begin screening all newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus. Officials say the state is the first in the nation to do so universally.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cytomegalovirus is the most common infectious cause of birth defects in the United States, with about 1 out of 200 babies born with the virus. While some don’t show any signs or have health problems, 1 in 5 will have long-term effects, including developmental and motor delay or seizures.
One of the most common long-term effects of cCMV is hearing loss, which can be present at birth or develop later.
In 2021, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Vivian Act, which required the state health commissioner to make information about cCMV and preventative measures available, establish an outreach program and raise awareness of the virus among health care providers.
It also required the state’s Advisory Committee on Heritable and Congenital Disorders review the virus for inclusion in newborn screening panels. In January 2022, the recommendation to add it was made, and approved by then-commissioner Jan Malcolm shortly after.
Cytomegalovirus can be passed to the child during pregnancy, and parents may not even know they have it. Most people with the virus have no symptoms, per the CDC. Children often carry the virus without symptoms and spread it through body fluids, like saliva. Parents and caregivers can pick up the virus when sharing food or utensils with the child.
According to the National CMV Foundation, several other states, including Illinois, Iowa and New York, provide targeted newborn screenings and education about the virus, but Minnesota is the first to enact universal newborn screenings for it.