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CMV Fact Sheet

What is Cytomegalovirus? CMV, or cytomegalovirus (sigh-toe-MEG-a-lo-vi-rus) is a common virus that infects people of all ages. Most infections with CMV are “silent”, meaning most people who are infected with CMV have no signs or symptoms. However, CMV can cause disease in unborn babies and in people with weakened immune systems. Once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life.

How is CMV spread?

  • Person to person contact (such as kissing, sexual contact, and getting saliva or urine on your hands and then touching your eyes or inside of your nose or mouth).
  • A pregnant woman can pass the virus to her unborn baby
  • Blood transfusions and organ transplantations

CMV is found in body fluids including urine, saliva, breast milk, blood, tears, semen, and vaginal fluids. A person can become infected with CMV when they come into contact with these body fluids.  The chance of getting a CMV infection from casual contact is very small.

Can a pregnant woman pass CMV to her unborn child?

About 1/3 of women who become infected with CMV for the first time during pregnancy will pass the virus to their unborn babies. Women who had CMV before getting pregnant can also pass the virus to their unborn babies, but this is less common. When infections occur in unborn babies, CMV can cause a wide range of disabilities. Each year, in the US, about 1 in 750 children are born with or develop disabilities as a result of CMV infection.

What problems or disabilities does CMV cause in babies?

Mental disability
Hearing loss
Vision loss
Growth problems
Lung problems
Bleeding problems
Liver problems
Spleen problems

Symptoms caused by CMV can appear at birth or later in the baby’s life. In some infants, hearing or vision loss occurs months or years after birth. Most babies born with CMNV never develop symptoms or disabilities.

Can pregnant women become infected with CMV from children who are in daycare?

Pregnant women can become infected with CMV through contact with young children, especially children in day care who are 1-3 years of age. CMV infection is very common in day care settings, but CMV does not harm the children themselves. Pregnant mothers who have young children in day care or who work in day care centers can help prevent catching CMV by practicing good hygiene (handwashing).

How can you prevent catching CMV during your pregnancy?

No actions can eliminate all risks of catching CMV, but there are measures that can reduce the spread of CMV:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after contact with saliva or diapers of young children.  Wash well for 15-20 seconds.
  • Do not kiss young children under the age of 6 on the mouth or cheek. Instead, kiss them on the head or give them a big hug.
  • Do not share foods, drinks, utensils with young children.

If you are pregnant and work in a day care center, reduce your risk of getting CMV by working with children who are older than 3, especially if you have never been infected with CMV or are unsure if you have been exposed.

Is there a test for CMV?

A blood test can be done to see if a woman already had a CMV infection. Typically, two CMV antibodies are tested: IgG and IgM. These tests can detect if:

  1. you have never been exposed to CMV,
  2. you were previously exposed to CMV and have immunity to the virus,
  3. you were recently exposed to CMV for the first time or
  4. you have been exposed to CMV and may be having a current re-infection.

Some results will require further testing to determine your risk.

What symptoms might occur with a CMV infection in an adult or child?

Most children and adults infected with CMV have no symptoms and may not even know that they have been infected. Others may develop a mild illness.  Symptoms may include fever, sore throat, fatigue, and swollen glands.

What about CMV in Sperm Donors?

Sperm donors and sperm sources for gestational carriers are tested for CMV. If you are using sperm from someone with whom you are not sexually active, you should either select a sperm source that has been tested and is CMV negative or you should get tested to know your CMV status. If you know the CMV status of yourself and the sperm source, your health care provider can talk with you about your particular risks of CMV infection during pregnancy. The FDA requires all sperm donors and sperm being used in a surrogate or gestational carrier be tested for CMV prior to being used.

Is there a treatment for CMV?

For pregnant women whose fetus might be infected with CMV, there is no treatment. For infants born with severe symptoms an anti-viral medication is sometimes used. Vaccines for preventing CMV infection are still in the research and development stage.

Downloadable copy here.

For more information about CMV, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website: http://www.cdc.gov/cmv. This information was obtained from CDC materials.