Minnesota now universally screening newborns for infection linked to hearing loss

All newborns in Minnesota will now be screened for congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV), becoming the first state to do so, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

MDH says Minnesota first state in the nation to screen all newborns for the common viral infection that can have serious health effects for children if not detected early.

As the most common viral infection in newborns, it occurs when an infection is passed from a pregnant person to their unborn baby and can lead to hearing loss in about 20% of diagnosed cases.

Other symptoms can include a smaller head, a smaller body than average body, skin rash, yellowing of skin and whites of eyes (jaundice), and/or enlarged liver and spleen. Children are also at risk for intellectual disabilities, and other health problems.

"Adding congenital cytomegalovirus to our newborn screening program is a big advance in protecting and improving the health of all Minnesota children," said Minnesota commissioner of health Dr. Brooke Cunningham in a statement. "Parents of children at risk for permanent hearing loss will receive early support that can help them prevent potential developmental delays."

Officials estimate that up to 300 babies out of 65,000 born each year in Minnesota will have cCMV, according to a press release from MDH.

In 2021, the Minnesota Senate passed a piece of legislation called the Vivian Act, with a provision meant to bring awareness and universal screenings for the virus - named after a 9-year-old girl that was diagnosed at two days old

According to the MDH, newborn screening cannot predict if a baby will have symptoms, which is why additional testing remains important.