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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2008 Jun;17(5):849-58. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2007.0523.

Women's knowledge of congenital cytomegalovirus: results from the 2005 HealthStyles survey.

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  • 1National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.



Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) is as common a cause of serious disability as Down syndrome and neural tube defects. When acquired prior to or during pregnancy, CMV can be transmitted transplacentally to the fetus, sometimes causing serious temporary symptoms, permanent disabilities, or both to the child. One way to prevent infection before and during pregnancy is through simple hygienic practices, such as handwashing.


This study used the 2005 annual HealthStyles survey, a mail survey of the U.S. population aged <18 years, to assess knowledge of congenital CMV. Self-reports by female respondents measured willingness to adopt particular hygienic behaviors to prevent CMV transmission.


Only 14% of female respondents had heard of CMV. Among women who reported they had heard of CMV, the largest proportion said they had heard about it from a doctor, hospital, clinic, or other health professional (29%). The accuracy of women's knowledge of what conditions congenital CMV can cause in the fetus was limited. The prevention behaviors surveyed in the present study (i.e., handwashing, not sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils with young children, and not kissing young children on the mouth) appeared to be generally acceptable.


There are prevention behaviors that have the potential of substantially reducing the occurrence of CMV-related permanent disability in children. However, our results suggest that few women are aware of CMV or these prevention behaviors.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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