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Plan advances to test for virus in infants with hearing loss

by Minden Press-Herald

BATON ROUGE – A bill that would, in certain circumstances, require newborns to get tested for cytomegalovirus, or CMV, cleared another hurdle Wednesday as it advanced out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. 

House Bill 643, also known as “Journie’s Law,” requires newborns in Louisiana who fail their hearing tests to be screened for CMV, a common virus that can lie dormant and be passed from mother to child during pregnancy. It can have serious health implications for children if it goes undetected.

Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Bossier, the bill’s author, said a failed hearing test is an immediate sign an infant may have the virus. The bill is named after one of Horton’s constituents, Journie, who was not tested for the virus after failing her hearing test.

Journie is now blind, has cerebral palsy and needs to be fed with a feeding tube. Horton said Journie could be walking and talking if the virus had been detected earlier. 

“I don’t believe there’s a lot of education on it,” Horton said about the need to test for CMV. 

Most babies who are infected before birth do not show signs of congenital CMV and may never have related health problems. Those who do show signs of the virus at birth may have a low birth weight, jaundice or seizures among other issues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 40% to 60% of infants born with those CMV signs will have long-term health implications such as hearing loss, vision loss, intellectual disability, lack of coordination, seizure or a small head.

Seven states–Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, New York, Utah and Virginia–require CMV testing in newborns who fail their hearing tests. There are currently no vaccines for the virus. 

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