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Baby's Viral Video Is Chance To Highlight Little Known Virus

By Kathy Walsh

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) - Video of a baby boy from Arvada, hearing for the very first time, has gone viral.

His parents are amazed at the millions of views. Matthew Swetnam is 4-months-old in the video. His eyes light up when hearing aids are turned on for the first time. The precious video has touched people around the world.

"It has close to 20 million views now," Erin Swetnam told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Matthew Hearing
Matthew with his mother, Erin Swetnam (credit: Swetnam family)

Erin and Jeff Swetnam are hoping Matthew's celebrity will help them spread important information about what caused his deafness. It wasn't genetics, but a common virus many of us have no idea exists.

"I had tested positive for CMV, cytomegalovirus, and I had passed it on to the baby," explained Erin.

CMV is a common virus spread through bodily fluids. According to the National CMV Foundation, up to 80 percent of adults have it by age 40 and many never show symptoms.

"I had never, ever, heard of it and most people I talk to about it have no idea what it is," said Erin.

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CBS4's Kathy Walsh with the Swetnam family (credit: CBS)

But she learned, if a woman catches CMV in pregnancy and the fetus is infected, some babies have lifelong consequences.

"Vision problems, hearing problems, brain development, " said Jeff.

Matthew is deaf, has cysts and calcifications on his brain and other health issues. Now 11 months old, he wears his hearing aids every day. Tests at the University of Colorado Hospital Hearing and Balance Center show he is improving.

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CBS4's Kathy Walsh interviews Dr. Shannon Elam (credit: CBS)

"He's showing responses to sound. He's starting to make connections to sound," said Dr. Shannon Elam, Pediatric Audiologist at the UCH.

Now, the Swetnam's are pushing for awareness.

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(credit: CBS)

"There are more children affected by CMV than there are with Zika," said Jeff.

The parents want education and testing for CMV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 150 babies gets the virus and about 20 percent get sick.

Matthew with his mother, Erin Swetnam (credit: Swetnam family)

With Matthew came a mission for the Swetnams to get the word out for others. They are encouraging women to get tested for the virus before getting pregnant. And, they say, if a woman has never had CMV and gets pregnant, she should practice frequent handwashing, especially after changing diapers, and avoid kissing toddlers on the mouth because the virus is most common among kids.

CMV BABY HEARING Matthew Swetnam
Matthew Swetnam (credit: CBS)

The Swetnams plan to push for funding for research and testing of newborns for CMV.

LINK: National CMV Foundation

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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