Pregnant? Beware of Mice!

You probably know that once you become pregnant, smoking is a no-no, alcohol should be avoided, raw fish is “iffy” and you should let someone else clean the kitty litter. But here’s another thing to add to the list:  Stay away from mice and hamsters, no matter how cute and cuddly they may be!

According to, mice and hamsters pose a threat to your unborn baby, and pregnant women should pass on holding, petting or otherwise getting near these rodents. They should not clean an animal’s cage, or clean up mice droppings, and it may be harmful to merely breathe the air where infected mice live. These critters may be carrying a virus called congenital lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) which can cause serious birth defects.

Healthy adults are usually unaffected by the virus, and a mother-to-be may not have any symptoms. It’s not until the baby is born that problems are discovered, and often misdiagnosed as one of the other prenatal problems, like the parasite-caused toxoplamosis, German measles or even some kinds of herpes virus-caused condition.

The good news is that while virus definitely exists, and has been detected all over the USA, there are probably only a few mice that carry it. “So the chances of picking up LCMV while pregnant are, right now, very, very slim,” says Dr. Joseph Stavola, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

But Dr. Leslie Barton, a pediatrics professor at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, still thinks it’s important to raise awareness about this virus, in women and in obstetricians.  She notes that learning more about LCMV could give a name and a reason to many otherwise-unexplained conditions in infants and children.

“It is a terrible feeling knowing that something happened to your child during pregnancy and not know what the cause was — or if it could happen again with a subsequent pregnancy,” she says.

What to do:

  • Common sense and basic hygiene can go a long way in protecting you and your unborn child against LCMV and other prenatal risks.
  • “If you are pregnant, wash your hands frequently, don’t clean the hamster cage or sweep up rodent droppings, and whenever possible, avoid areas populated with mice,” says Stavola.
  • For more information on the full range of prenatal tests that can help protect mother and baby, visit the March of Dimes site.

Read more about LCMV here at

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