Don't pass herpes on to your baby

Plus: a dangerous rodent virus


Health roundup Research shows that one in four pregnant women has genital herpes, and many don’t know it because the symptoms are not always visible and the virus does not always show up in lab tests.

The disease rarely causes serious health problems for the women—but it does cause blistering, fever, brain damage and heart and liver complications in newborns exposed to the virus during a vaginal delivery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into ways to prevent initial herpes infections in pregnant women. The National Institutes for Health says antiviral medication can help prevent an outbreak of herpes at the end of the pregnancy. A Caesarean delivery also can reduce the chance herpes will be passed to the baby.

Rodent virus can infect a fetus

Pregnant women should avoid contact with hamsters or guinea pigs, which can carry the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. While the viral infection is generally mild in adults, pregnant women infected during the first or second trimester can pass it to their fetus. The results can cause hydrocephalus, psychomotor retardation, blindness or even death.

Wild house mice are the primary host of the virus, but there have been reports of four adults who were infected by a pet hamster. The CDC recommends that pet rodents be kept in a separate part of the home, another family member clean and care for the pet and pregnant women avoid "prolonged stays in the room where the rodent resides."

Symptoms of the infection, which occurs one to two weeks after exposure, include fever, stiff neck, lack of appetite, muscle aches, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Heather Cunningham


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