New York is one step closer to requiring that information about congenital cytomegalovirus is included in training materials for child care providers.
The state Senate unanimously passed legislation on Tuesday that would boost awareness of the virus, which is considered a workplace hazard by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The virus is common, but it can cause birth defects in children.
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. John Mannion, who represents parts of Cayuga and Onondaga counties. It was inspired by Elizabeth Saunders, the daughter of Jim and Lisa Saunders. Elizabeth, who was infected with CMV and had health problems throughout her young life, died after suffering a seizure in 2006.
Mannion, D-Geddes, named the bill "Elizabeth's Law" in her honor.
"CMV is a rare occupational hazard for pregnant women working with young children in day care settings," he said. "My legislation will provide for training and increased awareness so expecting moms have the information they need to make informed decisions to keep themselves and their babies safe. I thank and commend Lisa and Jim Saunders, who have turned their heartache into potentially life-saving action. We are grateful to have them in our community."
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The legislation was introduced after The Citizen published a story about Jim and Lisa Saunders, who live in Baldwinsville. (Jim is an Auburn native.) The couple has been walking the Erie Canalway Trail to raise CMV awareness.
Lisa thinks that she contracted the virus while working as a child care provider — she ran a day care center out of her home and worked in a church nursery — and then transmitted it to Elizabeth. She told The Citizen in May that she was trained on various aspects of child care, but wasn't informed about CMV and its status as an occupational hazard.
"I didn't learn about that until after (Elizabeth) was born," she said. "People who work in child care are at an increased risk of it." OSHA estimates that between 40% and 70% of child care employees were infected with CMV.
Mannion's bill would address the lack of CMV education for child care workers. It would also require the state Department of Health to provide obstetrician-gynecologists with informational materials about "the risks and transmission of CMV" to pregnant patients during their first visit.
While the legislation cleared one hurdle, it still must pass the Assembly. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal has introduced it in her house, but it remains in committee.
The legislative session is scheduled to end next week.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.