Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

What is cytomegalovirus (CMV)?

CMV is a common virus that is related to the herpes family. It can be spread during sex, or in blood, urine, saliva or breast milk.

Many people already have CMV but don't know it. This is because, in healthy adults, no symptoms or problems may develop, as most of us produce enough antibodies to keep it inactive.

What form can CMV take?

There are three forms which CMV can take:

Congenital CMV is when a baby is born with the condition. (Infants can also contract CMV through their mother's breast milk.)

CMV can be present in healthy adults, causing no symptoms or problems.

CMV can be present in people with a weakened immune system, such as organ transplant recipients or people with AIDS.

Is CMV dangerous?

Not for the majority of people. However it can be a threat to those who have a weakened immune system, such as organ transplant recipients. This is because if the immune system is weak, the normally dormant virus may become active, causing dangerous illnesses, such as CMV retinitis, which can lead to blindness.

It can also be dangerous if a woman contracts CMV for the first time while she is pregnant. In such cases, the virus may be spread to the unborn baby, via the placenta or birth canal. This can result in the baby developing congenital CMV, which can lead to serious problems such as brain damage or deafness.

What can I do to protect myself from CMV if I am pregnant?

Very few women actually contract CMV when they are pregnant. However there are a few things you can do to lower the chances even more:

What is CMV mononucleosis?

Sometimes healthy people who contract the CMV virus for the first time, develop what is known as CMV mononucleosis. This is usually indicated by a two or three-day feeling of fatigue, fever, and a sore throat. This illness requires no treatment as it goes away by itself.

What is the treatment for CMV?

There is no treatment for CMV mononucleosis, as it goes away by itself. CMV that is associated with a weak immune system can be treated with anti-viral drugs. However these may cause side effects such as nausea.

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