Friday, June 12, 2009


I was pretty disappointed today to learn that I am Negative for CMV and toxoplasmosis.

I was worried about the toxo cause I want to get some cats and while knowing this does increase my weariness somewhat, the fact that I have had a cat nearly all the 26 years of my life and managed to avoid catching it is pretty reassuring (and I scooped the litter myself most of those years).

But the CMV...

First, if you don't know much about CMV (cytomegalovirus) you can check out the CDC's page on it. CMV is one of those virsus that isn't a big deal unless you get it for the first time while pregnant and then it can cause birth defects. In fact, I've heard that it is the leading cause of congenital birth defects in the US. The CDC's website even says: Each year in the United States, about 1 in 750 children are born with or develop disabilities as a result of CMV infection. What it doesn't say is that the disabilities can be very severe. CMV increases the risk of miscarriage. Many parents of children that become infected with CMV during gestation abort their children.

Some websites will say that CMV causes infectious mononeucleosis, but I've had mono before and most people consider true mono to be from the Epstein Barr Virus. So the CMV mono is not the same thing, so it's not good to assume you've been exposed just because you've had mono.

The most common sources of exposure to CMV is often young children (the virus is often shed in their saliva and urine). The best protection is washing your hands.

So then, you'd think if I just wash my hands and stay away from toddler spit and pee I'd be ok, right? Mostly. But, the real reason that I wanted to get the CMV testing is that I became a Catholic about a year ago. And, if you are familiar with a Catholic mass, you know that you shake everyone's hand around you as a sign of peace shortly before the Eucharist. And the Eucharist is a big deal to Catholics, it is a major tenant of the Catholic faith.

I'm too much of a germ-a-phob to drink out of the cup, but that's fine, you don't have to as long as you take the bread (you have to take at least one or the other). But now, I'm afraid to take the bread too. I can sanitize my hands before I get the bread, but the person passing it out doesn't sanitize their hands. And churches are filled with sick folks and babies and toddlers... I'm terrified that taking the Eucharist will cause me to contract CMV.

I've had an interesting relationship with the Eucharist since I started dating my husband. About a month after I started dating him I got a really severe case of mono (I was almost hospitalized, my liver started to shut down, and it was from him of course, he's the only guy I've ever kissed and the incubation timing is perfect for when I came down with it). Of course I got fat again after mono too. And although I was previously as healthy as can be, I just kept getting sick with one thing after another. Finally, after a year or more, I asked him to stop taking the blood at mass and, guess what, I stopped getting sick and have been incredibly healthy since. So that experience has already made me very weary of virus transmission from the Eucharist.

So something else to consider here is that I can stop taking Eucharist, but if my husband hasn't ever gotten it before and gets an active infection, he could spread it to me. So maybe he should stop too? Maybe I need to have him screened too? I bet he's gotten it already. I called my family doctor and asked her and she said that they've never screened a man for it before and kinda doubts that insurance would cover it. (I care enough to pay out of pocket.)

I know the Eucharist is supposed to be an act of faith and this my line of thinking here is probably some kind of blasphemy, but it says in the bible, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." So, to me, that means don't rely on God to keep you from getting a common virus and to protect myself. But this means that I should probably talk to my priest about not taking the Eucharist while I'm pregnant. I think that's allowed, but I'm not really sure (I'm going to quit either way, but I'd like to understand if it's a sin or something before I do). And this means we have to tell my priest, like today. Oy vey!

And I do think taking the Eucharist is a very special thing and I really enjoy it. Every week at church I get to partake in a miracle. And on Sundays (every Sunday) I go to Adoration just to see the Eucharist for a while. Giving this up is a big deal and not something I want to do, but definitely a big enough deal that I will. I already made the decision as an adult that just walking up to get a blessing was not the way I wanted to participate during communion. But this is still an easy choice for me and I hope my priest is compassionate about this. I really like him and I think he will be, but I don't really know what the Church's official position is here.


Celia said...

I am a germaphobe too. But the plain fact is you KNOW you have gotten sick from it before.

God is not going to be pissed.

What you can try is explaining your situation, and asking if there is a person who would take you the host.

They have little traveling cases for it and everything. My Aunt used to do it for my Granny.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure dude.

ESPECIALLY because whooping couch is going around. All those asses who don't believe in vaccines are to blame. My boss has freakin whooping cough right now.

Libby-CT said...

hey there! I haven't posted here before but have been enjoying reading your blog for a while (I have PCOS too and am very impatient!). I was interested in your comments today -- I'm a Catholic too, and a little bit of a germophobe. (I use a lot of Purell!) I do recommend you talk with your priest, and maybe it's worth noting to him that in my church here in CT, the eucharistic ministers are required to use Purell (there are pump bottles of it in their first pew) after the sign of peace, on their way up to the altar. It makes me feel much better about taking communion. Also, my parents Catholic church in the suburbs of Boston started encouraging people to simply wave and verbally extend a sign/comment of peace - well, during the winter flu season at least. So there is a precedent there to take steps to protect the health of parishoners! I hope this helps, and I do hope you'll talk to the priest. I'll be eager to hear what comes of this!

Amanda said...

Hey Libby, thanks! I had no idea that their were Catholic Churches out there that understand how germs spread! I will definitely have to mention that this is done other places to my priest (who, turns out is on retreat right now, so I won't get to talk to him for awhile).

Celia, they do what you are talking about at my church, but I don't think it will help me. That communion is no less defiled by germy hands than the communion I could get by just going up to the front myself to get (and probably more since it's generally the left over after everyone has been served).

Celia said...

Really? That is strange. Mine just sends someone to your house with a wafer just for you.

Be that as it may, I don't think you would be doing wrong to stop for 8 months.

The Wife said...

wow, you think of everything! It wouldn't even have occurred to me to stop taking the eucharist because I was pregnant.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that CMV stuff is scary. I completely understand the germ stuff. We have gone through so much to get pregnant and we really don't want to take ANY risks. I certainly hope that your priest is understanding. You need to do whatever you feel is necessary to stay healthy and sane, regardless of the church's position. Good for you for being so informed!