A family from the Toronto area received the last Christmas present a little earlier this year when their six-month-old daughter looked into her mother's eyes and smiled.
Francesca Jones heard her mother's voice this month for the first time after having cochlear implants attached, allowing her to listen.
The baby was born with a cytomegalovirus (CMV) congenital infection, the most common cause of non-hereditary hearing loss in children. The virus has been detected as part of a new CHEO-based screening program that aims to identify more children with hearing loss earlier and to detect cases of CVMC, which can also cause delays in the development of children. Ontario is among the first jurisdictions in the world to have this program.
As a result of the screening program introduced by CHOO-based Newborn Screening Ontario and the Ontario Infant Hearing Program, Francesca became the second youngest child to receive cochlear implants at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
The day the implants were activated, December 10, was magical for his parents, Julia Tirabasso and William Jones.
Tirabasso said "Ciao Francesca" to his daughter and the baby smiled.
"Seeing Francesca look up and smile at us while she hears our voices for the first time is the last Christmas present," her father said.
Early diagnosis of hearing loss is critical to the overall development of the child, said senior audiologist Marie Pigeon of CHEO.
"There is a ton of evidence that shows that hearing loss is something we need to test very early. If we can find hearing loss before six months, we can make the hearing impaired perform the same performance as their peers for the rest of their lives. It has a very big impact. Early is the key. "
The new targeted neonatal screening program that identified Francesca's cCMV aims to detect hearing loss in babies as quickly as possible in order to provide adequate treatment and support. Through the Ontario Infant Hearing Program, babies in the province have been tested since 2002. The cCMV testing program was introduced earlier this year. So far, 10 infants have been identified as having CMV-related congenital hearing loss.
Congenital cytomegalovirus is a common virus that can have devastating effects on some children whose mothers are infected when they are pregnant.
Dr. Jason Brophy, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at CHEO who was involved in the launch of the screening program for congenital CMV, said infectious disease specialists hope the program will help raise awareness about CMV.
Newly diagnosed parents often say they have never heard of CMV, Brophy said.
The day the six-month-old Francesca's cochlear implants were activated was magical to her parents, William Jones and Julia Tirabasso. (Paddy Moore, CHEO) It is a common virus that often comes with mild symptoms or no symptoms. Between 50 and 70 percent of people have had CMV when they reach adulthood and are immune to it. About 40 percent of women who have not had it before and become infected during pregnancy will pass on to the baby, Brophy said. A small percentage of people who have had the disease can also go through reactivation or because they have a different strain, he said.
Brophy said it is important to get pregnant mothers to take preventive measures – especially by avoiding sharing saliva with young children and taking other precautions, such as washing their hands often.
"Almost every baby I see with CMV congenital, there is an older child at home who is in day care. This is a very common presentation: the mother gets her primary infection through her oldest child who is in the day care and that's when she goes to the baby. "
Brophy said that pregnant mothers with babies are advised to kiss them on the head and wash their hands frequently.
"I think a pregnant woman hears many other messages in pregnancy: she should not change the cat litter, she should not drink alcohol, she should not get the flu, but we do not talk so much about CMV prevention. I believe that as people become more CMV aware and what they can do to babies through this auditory examination program, we will have a better chance of teaching women what they can do to avoid it in the first place. .
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Each year, about 925 babies are born with congenital CMV in Ontario. Between 10 and 15 percent of the symptoms show at birth.
Using blood tests done from infants to screen for congenital CMV is a way to improve the timeliness of treatment for infected babies, said Dr. Pranesh Chakraborty, medical director of the Newborn Screening Ontario and CHEO pediatrician.
He said he expects more children to benefit from early identification as a result of the program.
"Everyone here at Newborn Screening Ontario in Ottawa are very happy for Francesca and her family," he said.
For French parents, screening led to treatment and surgery, which ended a period of concern and, most importantly, allowed the baby to hear.
"We have much to be thankful for this year," said Francesca's father William Jones.
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