This is absolutely fascinating to me...
…and may bore you to death. I've bolded the critical parts, and italicized the quotes.
Basically, there is a virus called HCMV that is pretty much harmless... most people who get it (and 90.8% of individuals aged 80 and over are positive for HCMV) will not even notice, although they may have a sore throat for a while. Only immunocompromised people (organ transplant recipients, HIV positive, etc...) and unborn babies need fear HCMV. “Most healthy people who are infected by HCMV after birth have no symptoms. Some of them develop an infectious mononucleosis / glandular fever-like syndrome, with prolonged fever, and a mild hepatitis. A sore throat is common. After infection, the virus remains latent in the body for the rest of the person's life. Overt disease rarely occurs unless immunity is suppressed either by drugs, infection or old-age. Initial HCMV infection, which often is asymptomatic is followed by a prolonged, inapparent infection during which the virus resides in cells without causing detectable damage or clinical illness.”
The real fear is that if a women catches HCMV /while/ she is pregnant, there is a significant chance that her child will suffer a birth defect such as mental retardation. If she already has it, no problem. If she and her healthy baby catch it after the baby is born, no problem. But if she doesn't have it, and then gets it during the pregnancy, there is a problem. "CMV remains the most important cause of congenital viral infection in the United States. HCMV is the most common cause of congenital infection in humans and intrauterine primary infections are second only to Down's syndrome as a known cause of mental retardation."
The most interesting point is that this tragedy is more likely in a modern, sterile, sexually uptight society than it is in a poor, fun loving society: "Due to the lower seroprevalence of HCMV in industrialized countries and higher socioeconomic groups, congenital infections is actually more common than in poorer communities, where more women of child-bearing age are already seropositive. In industrialized countries up to 8% of HCMV seronegative mothers contract primary HCMV infection during pregnancy, of which roughly 50% will transmit to the foetus. Between 22-38% of infected foetuses are then born with symptoms, which may include pneumonia, gastrointestinal, retinal and neurological disease"
This specific cause of birth defects is apparently on the rise in our country. And it’s because we are too clean, too uptight, and not enjoying life; not really getting out there and living. Like the measles, mumps, chicken pox and other infections that are actually good to get early on, HCMV is something that it is probably best to pick up and get over with before you have a child.
Living a life in contact with the earth and others, having a little fun (“French” kissing and “making out”), without having too much fun (NO unprotected sex, including oral sex) will get a young woman her HCMV infection without getting her an STD infection and can actually increase the health of her children when she decides to have them; hopefully later in life. Unlike most STD’s (including HIV^) HCMV is carried in saliva as well as “other bodily fluids”: “Transmission of HCMV occurs from person to person through bodily fluids. Infection requires close, intimate contact with a person excreting the virus in their saliva, urine, or other bodily fluids.”
So I can see two different stereotypical young women: One, the conservative religious sort who has never kissed anyone except on the cheek, much less “made out” with anyone; who washes her hands compulsivly with anti-bacterial soap, and then gets married to the man her family approves of and bears children as soon as possible because she is expected to do so. Another, who is not afraid of living, who starts dating at an appropriate age and goes out with several guys before she settles down, kissing or even having sex (but always with double protection) before she picks the best husband; having a kid of her own when she feels ready. The baby from the first one is in danger. Of couse, there is the third example, who has unprotected sex with multiple partners and ends up a child with children and STD’s.
As with just about everything in life, the middle road is best. Too much on either side is dangerous.