Cytomegalovirus or CMV is a common virus that infects people of all ages. Over half of adults by age 40 have been infected with CMV and most people infected with it show no signs or symptoms. About one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV infection and about one in five babies will have long-term health problems because of it. Despite these statistics, not many people have heard of it.

University of Minnesota researchers have published a study with the goal to determine people’s level of awareness around CMV as well as assess their attitudes towards screening and understanding of what could increase the risk of prenatal infection.

The study was conducted at the Minnesota State Fair in 2017 and was published in PLOS ONE on Monday, August 26, which is also University of Minnesota Health Women and Children’s Health Day at the Minnesota State Fair.

The lead author on the study is Epidemiology PhD student Katie Tastad, MPH, from the UMN School of Public Health, and Dr. Nicole Basta, Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health, was the corresponding author and primary mentor. Mentorship was also provided by Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician Mark R. Schleiss, MD, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and funding was provided by the Minnesota Vikings Children’s fund.

Researchers conducted a survey among 726 women at the fair and asked Minnesota residents between the ages of 18 to 44 if they had never been pregnant or had been pregnant within the past 10 years and then compared responses between never-pregnant and recently-pregnant women.

Only 20% of the women had previously heard of CMV. Researchers were surprised to find that recently-pregnant women were not more likely to be aware of CMV than never-pregnant women. Even though the awareness around CMV was low, once given the information around the virus and its risks, the women supported screening.