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MN Becomes First State to Screen for Viral Infection Connected to Newborn Hearing Loss


The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) became the first state in the nation to screen all newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV), a common viral infection that can have serious health effects for children if not detected early. This common virus can lead to hearing loss in about 20% of diagnosed cases.

As scientific technology and knowledge advances, Minnesota has expanded it’s newborn screening panel and can detect more conditions from early screening and treatment. Congenital cytomegalovirus becomes the latest addition to the more than 60 conditions for which newborns are screened.

One of the most common viral infection in newborns is Congenital cytomegalovirus. It happens when the viral infection is passed from the pregnant mother to their unborn baby and can cause a range of problems, including hearing loss. Officials estimate that up to 300 babies out of 65,000 born each year in Minnesota will have cCMV.

Most of the condition’s that are screened in newborns are inherited through genes of one or both parents, however, cCMV is an infectious disease and can be spread through saliva and direct contact. It is the first infectious disease added to the panel in Minnesota.

Early studies suggest there are no symptoms of the disease at birth and aren’t expected to develop symptoms but 20% of babies diagnosed with cCMV will have symptoms either at birth or later in childhood.

One of the only symptoms of the disease is hearing loss and about half of the 20% diagnosed will develop permanent hearing loss. The hearing loss may be present at birth or show up later in childhood. For this reason, it is important that children with cCMV have regular hearing exams even if no other symptoms are present at birth.

A small portion of babies will also have other signs of disease such as a very small head, a smaller body than expected for age, skin rash, yellowing of skin and whites of eyes (jaundice), and/or enlarged liver and spleen. These children are also at risk for intellectual disabilities, hearing loss, vision loss and other health problems.

Newborn screening cannot predict if a baby will have symptoms, which is why additional testing is important for children with cCMV. Follow-up urine testing within 21 days will determine whether the baby was infected with cytomegalovirus at birth. If cytomegalovirus is found in the baby’s urine, more testing will be recommended to look for symptoms of the disease.

Research by the University of Minnesota and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed screening for cCMV can be done using DNA extracted from dried blood spots. Most common tests for cCMV are done using saliva or urine.

Newborn screening is a set of tests that check babies for serious, rare disorders. Most of these disorders cannot be seen at birth but can be treated or helped if found early. Routine newborn screening includes a blood spot screen, hearing screen and pulse oximetry screen. If a condition is detected, MDH contacts the child’s health care provider to discuss the result, educate them about the condition and review the recommended follow-up.

Article originally appeared on Valley News


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