FALMOUTH, Maine (AP) — Maine might begin mandating screening for a virus that can cause hearing loss and other health problems in newborns.

A bill introduced Wednesday would require screening for cytomegalovirus, which is also known as CMV. Bill sponsor Sen. Cathy Breen, a Falmouth Democrat, said the screening would be required for all newborns in the state who fail two hearing tests.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website that one out of five babies with congenital cytomegalovirus will have symptoms or long-term health problems, such as hearing loss. Supporters of Breen's bill said in a statement that one out of every 200 babies is born with CMV.

Other problems associated with the virus include developmental delay, vision loss and seizures.

The goal of the proposal is “to decrease the number of Maine children who are living with the significant health impacts of being exposed to CMV in utero,” Breen said.

The proposal states that a hospital, birthing center or other birthing service must conduct the test or otherwise make sure it happens before the baby is discharged. It allows for a religious objection if the parents of the baby say the test conflicts with religious tenets.

The bill also requires the state to provide public educational materials to pregnant women and potential mothers about the risks associated with the virus. Medical associations or other groups might play a role in developing, promoting and distributing those resources, it states.

The proposal received a public hearing Wednesday in which Deborah Hagler, president of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, testified in favor. Hagler said the potential toll of the virus makes "efforts to prevent CMV during pregnancy and identify CMV in the neonatal period imperative to improve outcomes for babies."

The bill is expected to go before a committee for a work session Jan. 20. It would require the approval of the full Maine Legislature.

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