Rebekka Murray and her son Jackson.
Rebekka Murray and her son Jackson. Tony Martin

How a pregnant mum's 'flu' went so wrong

WHEN Rebekka Murray was pregnant with her third child and became ill, she brushed it off, thinking it was simply a case of the flu or a common cold.

After all, the symptoms which struck the 24-year-old about five months into gestation weren't anything out of the ordinary.


"I actually didn't think anything of it," Mrs Murray said.

She had no idea at the time that cytomegalovirus --- which is a flu-like illness --- would see her son, Jackson, born six weeks premature, profoundly deaf at 1.9kg, after an emergency Caesarean section.

"The doctor asked if I'd been very sick and I told him 'oh, I think I had the flu, but he told me 'you actually had CMV'," she said.

"I had never even heard of the virus."

Mrs Murray was forced to remain in special care with Jackson for a month, until her little battler was cleared to return to their home at Hay Point.

The virus is a member of the herpes family which includes related viruses like chicken pox, glandular fever and cold sores; cytomegalovirus usually causes little more than flu-like symptoms that last a few days.

But in some people, including pregnant women, the effects can be much more serious.


Cytomegalovirus - Typical 'owl eye' inclusion indicating CMV infection of a lung pneumocyte (cells lining the alveoli of the lungs).
Cytomegalovirus - Typical 'owl eye' inclusion indicating CMV infection of a lung pneumocyte (cells lining the alveoli of the lungs). Wikicommons


"We've had lots of appointments since we've been home and we've been to Townsville about three or four times for things related to Jackson's hearing," Mrs Murray said.

"He's profoundly deaf and wears hearing aids, but he can have other things pop up while he's developing too, like epilepsy, calcification of the brain - it's a take-it-as-it-comes thing for (my husband) Reid and I.

"It's going to be a lifelong thing for us and Jackson.

"In special care in hospital he had blood tests everyday, but right now he's down to tests about one every four weeks."

Jackson will also continue taking Valganciclovir (which causes side-effects like anaemia) until February, at this stage.

He's currently using hearing aids, but the Murrays hope to get Jackson a cochlear implant in coming months.

Mrs Murray was keen to warn other mums, who may not have even heard of CMV, or the effect it can have on unborn babies.

"I don't want to panic people. It's not something that happens every day, but my point is for people to be aware of what this virus is," she said.

Mrs Murray only became aware of the virus after abnormal ultrasounds of Jackson prompted doctors to begin testing her blood, leading to his diagnosis, and some clarity.

A Mackay Base Hospital said as cytomegalovirus was not a notifiable condition statistics on the number of cases were unavailable.

*This article has now been updated to say that his tests are "about one every four weeks".

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