Educating the Public

Given the consequences of allowing the congenital CMV disease epidemic to continue unabated, it is imperative that women receive the educational message about congenital CMV disease prevention. Promotion of this message could translate years of careful CMV research into an immediate public health benefit. Encouraging hygienic practices would be relatively inexpensive (requires no laboratory testing or additional doctor visits), ethically responsible (allows women to make informed decisions), and likely to prevent disabilities and save lives. Based on studies of the economic impact of future CMV vaccines, which estimate savings of $50,000 per quality adjusted life-year saved, it is likely that CMV education efforts would provide a highly favorable cost-benefit ratio as well. CMV educational messages should emphasize hygienic practices as a precaution for all women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and reasonable but not extreme measures for minimizing risk during interactions with young children. In many instances, a CMV education message could build upon and strengthen other public health messages about infection prevention through improved hand hygiene. Once effective hand-hygiene messages are identified, more ambitious goals might also be considered, such as prevention of sexual transmission or transmission between children in daycare.