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CMV Infection

(Cytomegalovirus)

Pronunciation: sigh-toe-meg-a-lo-virus

Definition

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.

CMV can cause:

  • Primary infection—first time your body sees the virus
  • Reactivated infection—virus is already in your body and becomes active again

The Lymphatic Organs
The Lymphatic Organs

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Causes

CMV passes from person to person through bodily fluids. Examples include:

  • Kissing
  • Sexual contact
  • Breastfeeding
  • Changing the diaper of an infected infant

Risk Factors

CMV is very common in the US. Everyone has a risk of getting it. Your risk is higher if:

  • Your child is in day care and preschool
  • You work with children in day care or preschool
  • You have a weaker immune system common with:

Symptoms

Infection with CMV may cause no symptoms. This is more likely in people with a normal immune system.

When symptoms are present they may include:

People with weaker immune systems may have more severe symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Inflammation of the large intestines with ulcers and bleeding—colitis
  • An eye infection that can cause blindness—retinitis
  • Infection of the liver—hepatitis
  • Infection of the brain that can result in seizures or coma—encephalitis

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your doctor may suspect CMV based on your symptoms.

Blood tests can confirm CMV. Saliva test will be needed for infants.

Treatment

CMV will often go away on its own if you have a normal immune system.

Antiviral medicine are used to treat severe infections. The exact type of treatment will depend on how severe the infection. The involved organs will also pay a role. The medicine may be given by pill, or passed into your blood through IV. The length of treatment can also vary.

Prevention

To help lower your chances of CMV infection:

  • Practice safe sex.
  • When caring for children:
    • Avoid touching bodily fluids. Use barriers like gloves.
    • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands after any diaper change.
RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

IDSA—Infectious Diseases Society of America
http://www.idsociety.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Herpes Guide
http://www.herpesguide.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Cytomegalovirus. Family Doctor—American Association of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/cytomegalovirus.html. Updated July 2013. Accessed May 14, 2018.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and congenital CMV infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cmv/index.html. Updated June 5, 2017. Accessed May 14, 2018.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection in immunocompetent patients. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906245/Cytomegalovirus-CMV-infection-in-immunocompetent-patients. Updated May 10, 2018. Accessed May 14, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 8/23/2018