CMV or Cytomegalovirus is a viral infection quite common in the general population. In healthy people, it usually runs its course with little more ordinary flu symptoms like mild fever, sore throat and swollen glands. In fact, people may be unaware that they have been infected. However, in pregnant women who become infected with CMV for the first time, the virus can lead to their infants developing a severe form of congenital CMV infection.
If you have pregnant Educators in your early childhood service, here are a few tips on protecting them from CMV.
The first step to protecting your staff is to provide them with information about CMV transmission so that they know how to be careful. CMV infections are very common among children in early childhood education and care settings. The virus is spread occupationally from person to person by contact with body substances, including urine and saliva. But even if an infected child does not has any symptoms, they can pass the virus to another person.
Encourage your staff to discuss the matter of CMV infection with you if they expect to get pregnant or suspect they are pregnant so that they can be assessed for the degree of risk and a suitable course of action chalked out.
Since there is no vaccine for CMV, preventive practices are the only way to stay safe. Ideally, pregnant staff may be relocated to other settings or assigned to care for older children who can independently handle personal hygiene. However, if that is not possible, some measures that can be put in place are:
- using disposable gloves for nappy changing or other activities that involve contact with urine and saliva
- instructing at-risk staff not to kiss children on the mouth and face
- ensuring staff cover any open cuts with a water-resistant dressing
- installing hand-washing facilities close to nappy changing areas so that they wash their hands every time they come in contact with urine or saliva
- using disposable hand wipes or alcohol-based hand rub in case handwashing facilities are not available
- equipping classrooms with toys and surfaces that can be easily cleaned besides ensuring that commonly soiled items like nappy change mats, potties, feeding utensils and toys are regularly sanitised
- implementing appropriate laundry procedures like placing soiled personal clothing and linen in a sealed bag to be sent home with the child for washing
- advising pregnant staff to be in regular contact with their doctor or GP to check for susceptibility to issues like primary CMV infection.
The following article provides information on infectious diseases for pregnant women and the responsibilities of the service:
CMV In Early Childhood Education and Care Services, Worksafe QLD