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DES MOINES, Iowa — A Des Moines mother is sending out a warning about a hidden virus that attacked her unborn child. And it’s a virus you’ve probably never heard of.

Amanda Devereaux was excited when she found out she was pregnant with her second child. During her routine 20-week ultrasound, doctors found her daughter, Pippa’s brain was about three weeks behind in development. An amniocentesis confirmed Pippa had Cytomegalovirus or CMV. Only about 9 percent of expectant mothers have ever heard about CMV, even though 1 in 150 children are born with the virus.

“It’s out there. It happens a lot. There isn’t a lot of awareness. People don’t know about it, and it’s not a regular part of prenatal education,” said Devereaux.

Pippa underwent six months of anti-viral treatments, which help to improve hearing and neurodevelopmental outcomes for babies with the virus.

But as Pippa continued to grow, her parents noticed she was not hitting some key milestones.

“We had an MRI done and she does have some changes in her brain from the CMV.  A couple of sections of her brain have formed abnormally. She’s probably going to have some long-term effects from this,” Devereaux said.

Pippa, now 8-months-old, attends physical and occupational therapy and soon will start going to speech therapy as well.

The news of CMV was a shock to Devereaux, who is a nurse, and her husband, Paul. Doctors told her she most likely contracted the virus from her young son, Atticus, who attends daycare.

The CMV Foundation says 75 percent of toddlers have CMV, but it’s only harmful when an expecting mother contracts it. In those cases, about one-third of moms will pass the virus onto their unborn child.

“It can cause brain injury, which can lead to significant deficits as the child grows up. It can cause hearing loss, it can cause vision problems,” said Dr. Neil Mandsager

The good news is, the virus is preventable. Doctors recommend expecting mother’s with young children at home or work around young children follow a few simple steps:

  1. Avoid contact with saliva
  2. Wash your hands after contact with bodily fluids
  3. Avoid kissing children on the lips
  4.  Don’t share utensils with children

Devereaux underwent an experimental treatments at the University of Minnesota while she was still pregnant, but so far, there are no proven treatments available.

Devereaux and her husband are planning to work with lawmakers to introduce a bill that would launch a public awareness campaign about CMV and screen babies for the virus.

“She’s good. She’s a happy, happy baby. She smiles all the time, and we love her. But sometimes, we think about what her life might have been like if someone had warned us about this,” Devereaux said.

To learn more about CMV, click here.