CMV Awareness Month heads to legislative vote

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Supporters gather during the 2017 legislative session after Senate Bill 1060 was signed into law. The group includes Natalie Rachels, 11, center, who contracted the cytomegalovirus while in her mother’s womb causing severe disabilities. The bill required mothers to be educated about the risks and prevention of CMV. Now, a resolution to make June Idaho’s CMV Awareness month passed the print hearing on Feb. 8. (Courtesy photo)

SANDPOINT — A Kootenai family who helped pass a legislative bill to raise awareness about cytomegalovirus last year are on the cusp of another win in Boise this month.

Jessica Rachels of Kootenai said a CMV resolution to make June Idaho's CMV Awareness month passed the print hearing on Feb. 8.

"Our hopes are that the resolution will make June Idaho's CMV Awareness Month will continue to spread awareness throughout the state and spare more infants and families from the effects of the virus." Rachels said in an email to the Daily Bee.

June was chosen, she said, because it is the national CMV Awareness Month. Also the department of Health and Welfare hopes to have their website and printed material up and running by June.

The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Abby Lee, will be printed and then continue its course to be voted on, Rachels said.

"By raising awareness we bring more attention to a virus that has been seemingly ignored while allowed to flourish at epidemic levels," Patrick Rachels said in the email. "More awareness means more requests and work put into figuring out ways to combat the virus with the hopes that one day this virus will be a thing of the past."

The Rachels have been pushing legislative officials to help raise awareness of CMV after their daughter Natalie, 12, was born with severe disabilities after her mom unknowingly passed on the virus to her while she was pregnant.

CMV is a common virus in the herpes family, but because it is typically asymptomatic, few people know about it or realize that to catch it for the first time when pregnant can be devastating. While it may not affect the carrier or simply feel like a cold, it is one of the few viruses that can pass through the placenta and cause damage to the child's brain, eyes and/or inner ears. It can even cause miscarriage or death of the child after it's born.

Rachels ran an in-home childcare while pregnant with Natalie, her second child, and was never warned by her obstetrician that she was in a high-risk environment. Since she was a baby, Natalie has undergone 10 surgeries, has cochlear and other implant devices, is wheelchair bound, and developmentally is only four to six months old. Over the course of her life, Natalie has cost the state more than $1 million, Rachels said.

In March 2017, in a huge win for the Rachels family, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed Senate Bill 1060 into law, requiring the state Department of Health and Welfare to make available up-to-date and accurate information regarding CMV to health care providers, daycare providers, churches, schools and more.

Information: idahocmv.com

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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