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Gov. Butch Otter signed into law a bill intended to provide education for young mothers about a potentially dangerous virus.

The governor signed the bill on cytomegalovirus Tuesday, said Rebekah Hall, a member of the Idaho CMV Advocacy Project from Nampa.

Otter’s approval means that in July, $15,000 will be allocated to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to create and distribute educational materials about CMV for doctors’ offices, daycare programs, schools and other locations frequented by young mothers.

The Idaho CMV Advocacy Project does not intend to stop there, Hall said. The group intends to introduce a bill next year to build on this year’s legislative effort.

“Among other things, we’d like to put a program into place that will give targeted CMV testing to infants who fail their newborn hearing screens,” Hall wrote in an email to the Idaho Press-Tribune. “This will give babies with asymptotic congenital CMV infections (babies whose infection, without testing, would have gone undetected) earlier interventions and better developmental outcomes.”

CMV is a common virus that rarely presents symptoms in people, but when it does, they tend to be flu-like. However, it is possible that babies who contract the virus before they are born could be harmed developmentally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Long-term health problems are rare. One in 150 babies is born with CMV. Of that number, 20 percent will get sick and have long-term complications.

Hall’s 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter has disabilities due to the fact that she contracted CMV while in the womb. It is one of the few viruses that can pass through the placenta.

The virus is transferred via bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, tears and urine. Once someone gets CMV, they have it for life. Nearly one in three children are infected by age 5, and more than half of adults have it by age 40.

The Idaho CMV Advocacy Project points out that it is important for pregnant women to avoid common ways for the virus to be spread, such as by sharing food, drinks and toothbrushes with young children, kissing a child on the mouth or putting a child’s pacifier in their mouth. It is also important to wash your hands after coming in contact with saliva or after handling children’s toys, feeding a young child, wiping a young child’s nose or mouth and after changing diapers.

Lis Stewart is the Nampa and business reporter. She can be reached at 465-8193 or lstewart@idahopress.com. Follow on Twitter: @LStewNews.

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