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
A herpes virus causes CMV. The disease is passed by an exchange of body fluids with an infected person. You can be exposed through:
- Sexual intercourse
- Changing the diapeer of an infected infant
The virus is found in:
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
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
- 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
- Swollen lymph glands
People with suppressed or impaired immune systems can also develop:
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
- 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
- To check for signs of infection in the baby
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:
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Institutes of Health
HerpesGuide.ca (a member of the SkinCareGuide network of websites)
Public Health Agency of Canada
Cytomegalovirus. HealthLink Medical College of Wisconsin website. Available at: http://www.healthlink.mcw.edu . Accessed September 17, 2005.
Cytomegalovirus. International Herpes Management Forum website. Available at: http://www.ihmf.org . Accessed September 17, 2005.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org . Accessed September 17, 2005.
Cytomegalovirus infection (Cytomegalic Inclusion Disease). Merck & Co., Inc. website. Available at: http://www.merck.com . Accessed September 17, 2005.
Last reviewed January 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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