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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Cumbrian mum outraged by scaremongering over son's condition

A mother has hit out at national reports about a boy who cannot go near pregnant women, labelling them irresponsible and inaccurate.

Beki Stobart photo
Beki Stobart and her son Aaron

Beki Stobart’s son Aaron, now eight, was born with congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV), which has left him with hearing problems and some brain damage.

The Carlisle mum is angry at reports suggesting that children with the condition can pass the virus on to pregnant women simply by being in the same room.

She believes the misconceptions will leave other women afraid to be around her son, and stresses that the virus – which is actually unknowingly carried by up to a quarter of young children – can only be passed on through bodily fluids.

Beki, of Oaklands Drive, Upperby, in Carlisle added that basic hygiene precautions – such as regular hand-washing – would prevent its spread.

National reports focused on 14-year-old Sunderland boy Bryant Hackett, who contracted CMV following serious health problems that left his immune system weak.

His family claimed he was being forced to attend an all-boys school to keep him away from women.

But Beki said the reports were “scare-mongering”.

She had never heard of CMV when she gave birth to Aaron at the age of 17. Her labour was induced four weeks early because of concerns about blood flow to the baby and his heart rate. But he became distressed so they performed an emergency caesarean section.

Although he was small, there was no obvious sign of disability. However, after a few hours he was moved to special care due to issues with blood sugar and temperature.

They carried out tests and six days later Beki, who must have unknowingly had the virus while pregnant, was told he had congenital CMV.

He was moved to an isolation cubicle in Newcastle, where he was given regular doses of antiviral drugs.

“I didn’t really take it all in at the time. It was all quite devastating,” she said.

Aaron, who attends James Rennie School in Carlisle, has been left with deafness in both ears, learning difficulties and mobility issues. He also had seizures as a toddler.

His mum was told at one point his life expectancy was just five years, but he has already passed that and is making good progress in his communication and walking.

“He’s just brilliant. Coming on so well. At this rate he will outlive us all,” she said.

But Beki, who also has a four-year-old daughter Ebony, was worried the Bryant Hackett stories would leave women afraid to be around him.

“It’s not that you can’t go near someone. You can’t pass it on without bodily fluids. If you take basic precautions you won’t catch it,” she said.

“These reports have made me really mad. It’s ridiculous. Scaremongering.”

CMV is a common virus that affects people of all ages.

The only real risk is if you are pregnant or have a low immune system, for example chemotherapy patients.

Even CMV in babies is not rare, with as many as one in 150 born with the virus. Most will not have any symptoms, but one in 1,000 – about 900 a year in the UK – will.

Those most likely to pass it on are toddlers and pre-school age children, so pregnant women should take basic precautions – washing hands with soap and water after changing nappies and avoiding kissing babies and young children on the mouth, or sharing drinks and cutlery with them.

For details speak to your GP or midwife.

PMcGowan@cngroup.co.uk

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