Virus attacking brain of Hyndman infant

Three-week-old Emmett Sensabaugh is being treated at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W. Va., for the viral infection cytomegalovirus.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Doctors at West Virginia University’s J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital are waiting for 3-week-old Emmett Sensabaugh’s brain to stop bleeding.

“Right now, it’s a massive bleeding,” said Darlene Sensabaugh, Emmett’s paternal grandmother of Cresaptown, Maryland. “It’s bad.”

The infant’s brain is being attacked by a virus, a common infection his mother Bethany Sensabaugh had no idea she was carrying.

“Anyone can carry it,” Bethany Sensabaugh said. “I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t have any symptoms.”

Bethany Sensabaugh of Hyndman, Bedford County, has cytomegalovirus, or CMV, a viral infection contracted through bodily fluids such as urine, saliva or semen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of adults will have the virus by age 40.

“You can get it from eating after someone, drinking after someone,” Bethany Sensabaugh said. “People are walking around with it and don’t even know.”

The CDC estimates that nearly 1 in 3 children in the United States will contract the virus by age 5, putting child-care providers at high risk for infection.

Even when symptoms occur in adults, they are mild and mimic a common cold. But when the virus is transmitted to a fetus – such as Emmett – it can be deadly.

“All the problems with his heart and his liver, the bleeding on his brain, it’s from CMV,” Bethany Sensabaugh said.

About 1 out of every 200 babies are born with the congenital CMV infection, according to the CDC website. But only about 1 in 5 will be sick from the virus or have long-term health problems.

Screening for the virus is not part of routine tests recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for pregnant women in the United States.

“I didn’t know about it until he had it,” Bethany Sensabaugh said about the infection.

Emmett, along with his twin sister, Eliana, were delivered by emergency cesarean section on May 23 at Western Maryland Regional Medical Center after physicians noticed Emmett’s heart was enlarged on an ultrasound test.

Upon delivery, health care providers noticed a topical rash on Emmett’s body.

“There was a blue spotted rash all over him,” Bethany Sensabaugh said. “So that’s when they checked him.”

The rash is a symptom of the virus, as the infection belongs to the herpes family.

Emmett was transported to the Morgantown hospital after diagnosis, where he remains.

Eliana shows no signs of the virus.

Bethany Sensabaugh, along with her husband, Zach, have two other children.

The couple are currently traveling from Cumberland, Maryland, to visit with Emmett in Morgantown. 

The family is asking for any monetary donations to help cover transportation and food costs be donated to Standard Bank in Hyndman or LaVale, and Cumberland, Maryland.


Follow Heather Wolford on Twitter @heatherbwolford.

Trending Video

Recommended for you