CMV affects about 1,000 babies every year / Getty Images

CMV, or Cytomegalovirus, can cause miscarriages and disabilities

A charity has launched a new campaign to alert mothers-to be of the potential dangers of a virus that can cause miscarriages and disabilities.

CMV, or Cytomegalovirus, is a common virus that is carried by many healthy people without their knowledge – but it can prove deadly to unborn babies.

Dubbed the “silent killer”, CMV affects almost 1,000 babies every year, making it more common than Down’s syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis, but there is currently no vaccine or screening programme.

Around one in five babies born with CMV will have permanent problems, including physical impairment, ADHD, autism and epilepsy. However, only a third of these infants will exhibit symptoms at birth, making the problem a “hidden burden”.

CMV is spread through bodily fluids, so women are being advised to take simple precautions such as washing their hands thoroughly during pregnancy.

Charity CMV Action, backed by former Girls Aloud member and mother-to-be Kimberley Walsh, is seeking to raise awareness of the risks through the hashtag campaign #washawayCMV.

Professor Mike Sharland, children's infections specialist at St George's Hospital in London, told Sky News that the project is an important one.

“In pregnancy because your immune system is a little weaker, if you catch the virus, very rarely it can go across to the baby and cause problems for the baby as well,” he said.

Walsh wrote in her column for OK! magazine that her friend’s son was affected by the virus.

“It’s hard for anybody who has not experienced it to even begin to understand what it’s like to have a disabled child,” she wrote.

“But she does an amazing job and has had incredible support from CMV Action.”

Medical research is currently being carried out to develop new prevention and treatment techniques for the virus.