CMV is a type of herpes virus. It can cause serious illness in those with weak immune systems. Healthy people may not become ill, but they can pass CMV to others.
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CMV passes from person to person through body fluids. Examples are:
- Sexual contact
- Changing the diaper of an infected baby
CMV can also be passed from mother to baby. This can happen before or during birth.
After a person is infected, the virus stays in the body. It can be inactive for a long time. It can also become active again.
CMV is very common. The risk is higher for those who:
- Have a child in day care and preschool
- Work in a day care or preschool
- Have sex with an infected person
Have a weak immune system, such as with:
CMV infection may cause no symptoms or only mild ones. This is more likely in people with a normal immune system.
When symptoms appear, they may be:
People with weaker immune systems may have more severe symptoms such as:
- Bleeding in the intestines
- Vision problems
- Breathing problems
- Seizures or coma
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done.
Blood tests can confirm CMV. A saliva test will be needed for infants.
In those with a healthy immune system, CMV will often go away on its own.
Severe infections are treated with antiviral medicine. Other treatment will depend on how severe the infection. The involved organs will also pay a role. The medicine may be given by pill or IV. The length of treatment varies.
The risk of CMV infection is lowered by:
- Practicing safe sex
- Washing hands often, especially after changing diapers
- Using gloves to avoid touching body fluids
Chen SJ, Wang SC, et al. Antiviral agents as therapeutic strategies against cytomegalovirus infections. Viruses. 2019;12(1):21.
Cytomegalovirus. Family Doctor—American Association of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/cytomegalovirus.html. Accessed February 3, 2021.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and congenital CMV infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cmv/index.html. Accessed February 3, 2021.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection in immunocompetent patients. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cytomegalovirus-cmv-infection-in-immunocompetent-patients. Accessed February 3, 2021.
Last reviewed September 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/3/2021