CMV awareness campaign a labour of love

Kian's brother Bentley Bramley showing his support for the cause. Picture: supplied.
Kian's brother Bentley Bramley showing his support for the cause. Picture: supplied.

The hardest part for Kate Muller is getting used to the fact that she won’t be bringing her baby home.

Just two and a half weeks ago, Ms Muller lost her newborn son Kian to the common but little known Cytomegalovirus.

Now, she is on a campaign in Bendigo to raise awareness of the virus, and how to reduce infection risk.

After losing her baby, Ms Muller feels “broken” and “empty”.

“We weren’t bringing our baby home, so that was the hardest part to get used to,” Ms Muller said. “He was coming back, but he wasn’t coming back to be with us.”

She’s also asking why she had never heard of the common virus before her son was born, despite being at risk as a childcare worker.

At risk of preeclampsia, Ms Muller was receiving monthly growth-scans.

It wasn’t until 28 weeks that she even had an inkling her pregnancy might not be straightforward. 

On that scan, Kian only measured the size of a 24 week foetus.

Within five hours of the appointment, she had been rushed to Melbourne with partner Matt Bramley.

Kian was born via an emergency caesarean at quarter to one the next morning. 

He lived just 35 days, before passing away on May 15.

It wasn’t until the days after Kian was born, that Ms Muller heard the doctors discuss CMV.

She is astounded that the virus is so little known, despite being the most common infectious cause of disabilities in newborn babies. 

If she can get the word out, Ms Muller hopes others will not have to go through what she has.

Before Kian was diagnosed, no one in her extended families had heard of the disease. Research into it turned up all sorts of possible outcomes, and  as Ms Muller says:

We ended up copping what I think is the worst outcome of it.

Part of the herpesvirus family, CMV infects 50 percent of people by young adulthood, and up to 85% by the age of 40. Usually no symptoms are visible.

It is to unborn babies that the virus poses a real risk.

If a woman is infected for the first time while pregnant, the virus may be passed on to the baby. This is called congenital-CMV.

Approximately six infants in every 1,000 live births will have a congenital-CMV infection. 

Most babies born with congenital-CMV are not affected in the long term, but for some the virus and can cause disability and even death.

Transmitted by bodily fluids, it is particularly likely to affect parents or childcare workers who frequently come into close contact with children.

It is possibly through this that Ms Muller, a childcare worker, was infected.

The tragedy has mobilised her stop other families going through what hers is now. 

So, she is seeking to raise awareness of the virus, and how to prevent its transmission.

Last week, Ms Muller visited a number of childcare centres in the Bendigo region, armed with flyers and posters about how to prevent CMV transmission.

“People don’t know about it, they need to know about it,” she said.

CMV’s just so unknown, but it’s also just so ridiculously common. And because it doesn’t affect us or children like it does and unborn baby, it just needs to be known about, so it can be prevented.

Prevention methods are straightforward. Most just are to avoid contact with children’s bodily fluids, such as handwashing, avoiding kisses on the lips, not sharing a child’s spoon or cleaning their dummy with your own mouth.

A simple blood test early on in pregnancy can also tell expectant-mothers whether they have previously been infected by CMV. Those who have been previously infected are unlikely to pass on the virus to their baby.