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Pregnant Women Can Minimize Risk Of Rodent-Based Virus

wherever wild mice live, therefore the virus is present virtually everywhere," Bonthius added. "In a farming state like Iowa, mice can hide in places such as corn cribs in the fall."

To minimize LCMV risk, pregnant women can take these steps:

-- Have their home "winterized" to ensure that mice are not entering through cracks or crevices, especially in the foundation.

-- If a home is infested with one or more mice, have a non-pregnant individual remove the rodents, their droppings, urine and bedding, and clean affected surfaces with bleach to ensure that the virus is destroyed.

-- Any woman who is pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should not acquire a pet mouse or hamster, although a pregnant woman who already has a pet mouse or hamster likely does not need to get rid of the animal.

A woman who is concerned that she may have been exposed to LCMV can consult her physician about receiving a prenatal ultrasound to assess the fetal brain. As with all medical care, it is best for individuals to consult with their personal doctor before making any changes to their health care routine.

Bonthius also noted that if a baby is born with an infection, and common viral tests prove negative, then physicians should consider testing for LCMV.

Bonthius and colleagues are studying LCMV, with the ultimate goal of finding ways to prevent the birth defects it causes.

"The virus interferes with brain growth by disrupting cell division and by inducing inflammation that directly damages brain tissue. However, we still have a lot to learn to prevent the severe fetal brain damage that can occur," Bonthius said.

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