Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus. It can cause swollen lymph glands, fever, and fatigue. Most people with CMV do not show symptoms of infection and are not aware they have it.

CMV infection rarely causes health problems except for the following:

  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Babies in utero (not born yet)

The Lymphatic Organs

The Lymphatic Organs
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A herpes virus causes CMV. The disease is passed by an exchange of body fluids with an infected person. You can be exposed through:

  • Kissing
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Breastfeeding
  • Changing the diapeer of an infected infant

The virus is found in:

  • Saliva
  • Tears
  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Semen
  • Stool
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk

Risk Factors

This virus is so common throughout the US. Everyone is considered at risk for CMV.

People with the highest risk of acquiring this virus include:

  • Children and childcare providers in day care and preschool
    • Due to frequent exposure to body fluids that carry the infection
  • People with suppressed or impaired immune systems
  • Babies in utero
    • Exposure can result in congenital CMV (congenital means the baby is born with the condition); about 1% of babies born in the US have congenital CMV


The virus often remains inactive in the body. There are often no symptoms. Sometimes, the virus is activated. Reactivation of the virus can happen if your immune system becomes impaired. This can happen because of medication or illness. In this case symptoms can occur.

The symptoms are similar to mononucleosis , another herpes virus infection, and include:

People with suppressed or impaired immune systems can also develop:

  • Pneumonia
  • Colitis —inflammation of the large intestines
  • Retinitis —an eye infection that can cause blindness
  • Chronic liver disease

Babies born with congenital CMV infection can have the following problems:

  • Hearing loss
  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Mental retardation
  • Developmental problems
  • Chronic liver disease

Infants who get a CMV infection after birth rarely have any symptoms or complications.


CMV infection is not often diagnosed because the virus rarely produces symptoms. If CMV is suspected, it can be diagnosed by the following methods:

  • Blood test to detect CMV antibodies
    • Antibodies are disease-fighting proteins in the blood
  • Laboratory test of fluid samples
    • Not all laboratories are equipped to perform this test
  • Amniocentesis for pregnant women
    • To check for signs of infection in the baby
  • Biopsy of the affected organ


Most people will not need specific therapy for CMV infection. Like other members of the herpes virus family, once you have this virus, you have it for life.

Researchers are working to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of this disease.

For people undergoing organ transplants, AIDS patients and other individuals with immunosuppression, specific antiviral drugs may be used such as:


There is no definitive way to prevent CMV. It is important to wash your hands frequently. Dispose of diapers properly. Avoiding intimate contact with people known to have the CMV infection.