Mum's fight to eradicate virus

Emily and her daughter Penny are pictured at the front at the Teddy Bear's Picnic held at St Michael and St John's RC Primary School to raise awareness about the virus CMV and to raise funds for the charity CMV Action.
Emily and her daughter Penny are pictured at the front at the Teddy Bear's Picnic held at St Michael and St John's RC Primary School to raise awareness about the virus CMV and to raise funds for the charity CMV Action.

A mum from Clitheroe is raising awareness about a virus that unborn babies can contract after her own daughter was left with hearing problems.

Emily Stell (34), of Kenilworth Drive, contracted CMV – cytomegalovirus – when she was pregnant with her daughter Penny, who is now two.

Two-year-old Penny, far right, at the CMV awareness event held at the baby ballet class.

Two-year-old Penny, far right, at the CMV awareness event held at the baby ballet class.

Emily, who works as a higher level teaching assistant in a nursery school, like so many mothers who contract CMV while pregnant, was totally unaware that she had the virus. Toddler Penny now has no hearing in her left ear because of CMV. She also has sensory and food issues.

Determined to raise awareness of this little known virus, Emily, whose husband Sam is the deputy head teacher at Christ the King RC Primary School at Burnley, has already completed the Manchester 10k to raise funds for the charity CMV Action, which is fighting to raise awareness, get a vaccine and ultimately eradicate the virus.

St Michael and St John’s RC Primary School in Clitheroe where her five-year-old son Harry attends also held a Teddy Bears’ Picnic to raise funds and awareness, while Emily held a separate Teddy Bears’ Picnic and cake sale at Edisford Bridge. So far she has raised £600.

CMV infection before birth is known as congenital CMV. This happens when a mum is infected with CMV and it passes through to her unborn baby. About one third of women who become infected with CMV for the first time during pregnancy pass the virus to their unborn babies. Healthy adults will often not realise they’ve contracted it.

About one in every five children born with the virus will develop permanent problems due to the infection – nearly 1,000 babies every year. These problems include hearing loss, physical and motor impairment, seizures, autism, learning difficulties and visual impairment.

Despite CMV being discovered by the same research team that found polio, mumps and rubella, a vaccine is still not available for CMV. The spread of bodily fluids by small children is the main cause of pregnant women catching CMV. Therefore women who work with children, or who have a family already, need to be especially careful during pregnancy.

As well as the fundraisers already mentioned, donations have also been made at the baby ballet session that Penny attends.