Trenton – In an effort to prevent the risks associated with newborns being infected with congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV), the Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein which would require newborn infants to be screened for the potentially deadly virus as well as raise public awareness for the infection.
“Cytomegalovirus is a common, usually harmless, viral infection that is frequently carried by children that rarely causes illness,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “However, if a pregnant individual contracts CMV, the risk of spreading it to their unborn baby makes the consequences more dire. The cCMV infection occurs in 1 in every 200 newborns, with 1 in 5 of those affected developing permanent health problems. The infection can also be fatal, causing the death of as many as 400 infants each year. This infection can be prevented with proper screening, and no one should have to lose their child to this disease. The spread of this virus can be easily avoided with testing and awareness, and if this bill is enacted, we can potentially save the lives of many infants.”
The bill, S-3975, would permit the Department of Health (DOH) to charge a reasonable fee for a cCMV test, with the infant’s parent or guardian having the choice to opt out of the test. The bill would also require infants to be screened for cCMV beginning six months after the occurrence of the following:
- the development of a reliable test or series of tests for screening infants;
- the availability of quality assurance materials for the cCMV test from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- the inclusion of newborn cCMV screening in the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel of the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children, after the committee’s evidence review of newborn screening for cCMV;
- the recommendation by the Newborn Screening Advisory Review that the test be included in the State Newborn Screening Program;
- the Commissioner of Health’s approval to include the test in the State’s Newborn Screening Program, based on the recommendations of the Newborn Screening Advisory Review Committee; and
- the acquisition of the necessary equipment needed to implement the expanded screening tests by the State’s Newborn Screening Laboratory.
This bill was championed by 9th grader Eva Drennan, who was inspired to take action on this issue after her teacher, Jennifer Gallagher, unknowingly contracted CMV while pregnant with her son, Rocco. As a result of contracting the virus, Rocco has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
“Life is such a precious thing and not being able to enjoy it just like anyone else is heartbreaking,” said Drennan. “Rocco, and others like him, have been impacted because of the lack of awareness about this disease. If this past year has shown us anything, it is that we all need to prioritize our own and others’ health.”
Additionally, the Commissioner of Health would be required to establish an awareness campaign to educate those who are pregnant about cCMV and the value of detecting the virus early, interventions for the infection and its possible treatments.
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 39-0.