HAMILTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Inspired by a teacher’s experience, a Mercer County teen pushed lawmakers to write a bill mandating newborns receive screenings for CMV, a dangerous viral infection.
“Everything was fine until about three or four months, and he didn’t meet any developmental milestones,” teacher Jennifer Gallagher told CBS2’s Meg Baker.READ MORE: NYC Primary Day: Polls Open For Voters To Choose Next Mayor
Gallagher’s son Rocco was diagnosed with CMV, congenital cytomegalovirus.
“So when I was pregnant with him, I actually caught a virus that I didn’t know I had, and to the normal healthy person, it’s like a common cold. You might not show any symptoms at all,” Gallagher said.
But if you contract this very common viral infection for the first time while pregnant, it can transfer to the fetus and cause severe brain damage and hearing loss.
“Rocco is now disabled. He has cerebral palsy,” Gallagher said.
Ninety-one percent of women do not know about CMV or to even ask for a test, yet 1 in 200 children are born with it each year.
The effects vary. Gallagher must have caught it during the first trimester when the brain is developing.
Eva Drennan, an eighth grader at Saint Gregory the Great Academy in Hamilton, where Gallagher teaches, wanted to do something.
“We were like, let’s do this, so we emailed our legislators,” Eva said.READ MORE: Primary Election Day Guide For Voters In New York
A bill will be introduced next week mandating newborn CMV screenings in the state, and Eva isn’t stopping there.
“We want to make a CMV campaign so that more mothers can know about this,” she said.
“She is an amazing young little leader. She has the kindest heart,” Gallagher said.
“We follow the way of Christ … to help in our community and to reach out as much as we can, so I thought this was a great way to do that,” Eva said.
Children are the biggest carriers of CMV. There are some ways to mitigate transmission.
“I caught it most likely from my son going to day care,” Gallagher said. “If you are pregnant and you have a toddler at home, I suggest not kissing them on the lips, not sharing food and drinks.”
Talk to your doctor about testing. If you already have CMV antibodies, you have nothing to worry about.
Other tips for pregnant women with other children at home include constantly wash your hands and theirs, and do not share a tooth brush.
For more information visit, nationalCMV.org.MORE NEWS: Road To Reopening: Dance Parties, Watch Parties Feature Happy Crowds In New York City And Beyond
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.