What is Cytomegalovirus?
- Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that infects people of all ages.
- In the United States one in three children is already infected with CMV by age five.
- Over half of adults have been infected with CMV by age 40. Most people infected with CMV show no signs or symptoms.
- Once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life and can reactivate.
- People can also be re-infected with a different strain (variety) of the virus.
- When a baby is born with cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, it is called congenital CMV (cCMV) infection.
- About one out of every 200 babies, or approximately 2,500 babies are born with congenital CMV (cCMV) infection each day.
- About one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will have long-term health problems such as hearing loss, vision loss, small head size, lack of coordination, and in rare cases, death.
Signs and Symptoms
Babies who have congenital CMV appear healthy at birth.
A few babies who have CMV who appear healthy at birth develop signs over time, sometimes not for months or years after birth. The most common of these late-occurring signs are hearing loss and developmental delay. A small number of babies may also develop vision problems.
The more common signs and symptoms in babies who have congenital CMV and who are sick at birth include:
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Yellow skin & eyes (jaundice)
- Enlarged and poorly functioning liver
- Purple skin splotches or a rash or both
- Abnormally small head (microencephaly)
- Enlarged spleen
Adults with weakened immune systems, might experience serious problems that affect your:
Healthy adults who are infected with CMV may experience few if any symptoms. When first infected, some adults may have symptoms similar to infectious mononucleosis, including:
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if:
- You have a weakened immune system and are experiencing symptoms of CMV infection. CMV infection can be serious or even fatal for people with weakened immune systems. People who have undergone stem cell or organ transplants appear to be at greatest risk.
- You develop a mononucleosis-like illness while you are pregnant.
- You know you were infected with CMV during pregnancy. The doctor will likely assess your baby for hearing or vision problems.
CMV is related to the viruses that cause chickenpox, herpes simplex and mononucleosis. CMV may cycle through periods when it lies dormant and then reactivates. If you’re healthy, CMV mainly stays dormant.
When the virus is active in your body, you can pass the virus to other people. The virus is spread through body fluids — including blood, urine, saliva, breast milk, tears, semen and vaginal fluids. Casual contact doesn’t transmit CMV.
Ways the virus can be transmitted include:
- Touching your eyes or the inside of your nose or mouth after coming into contact with the body fluids of an infected person.
- Sexual contact with an infected person.
- The breast milk of an infected mother.
- Organ, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation or blood transfusions.
- An infected mother can pass the virus to her baby before or during birth. The risk of transmitting the virus to your baby is higher if you become infected for the first time during pregnancy.
Careful hygiene is the best prevention against CMV. You can take these precautions:
- Wash your hands often.Use soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, especially if you have contact with young children or their diapers, saliva or other oral secretions. This is especially important if the children attend child care.
- Avoid contact with tears and saliva when you kiss a child.Instead of kissing a child on the lips, for instance, kiss on the forehead. This is especially important if you’re pregnant.
- Avoid sharing food or drinking out of the same glass as others.Sharing glasses and kitchen utensils can spread CMV.
- Be careful with disposable items.When disposing of diapers, tissues and other items that have been contaminated with bodily fluids, wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face.
- Clean toys and countertops.Clean any surfaces that come in contact with children’s urine or saliva.
- Practice safe sex. Wear a condom during sexual contact to prevent spreading CMV through semen and vaginal fluids.