|Fluffy, cute and dangerous|
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Pregnant women should steer clear of pet gerbils, mice, hamsters and guinea pigs because contact with these little balls of fur could lead to birth defects, researchers say. A germ found in rodents called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) can be passed to the fetus while Mom handles the animals or inhales tiny airborne fecal particles. In adults, LCMV causes only mild flulike symptoms, but in infants it can cause cerebral palsy, blindness or retardation. Experts say the pet can stay in the home as long as Mom avoids the room where the pet lives.