Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common herpes virus. Many people who are affected don’t know it, because they may not have any symptoms. The virus spreads through bodily fluids, and it can be passed on from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby. It often remains dormant in the body, can cause complications during pregnancy and for people with a weakened immune system. It is also commonly known as HCMV, CMV, or Human Herpes virus 5 (HHV-5). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 50 percent of adults in the United States are infected by the age of 40 years. It affects males and females equally, at any age, and regardless of ethnicity.
There are three main types of CMV infections: acquired, recurring, or congenital.
- Acquired, or primary, CMV is a first-time infection.
- Recurring CMV is when the patient is already infected. The virus is dormant and then becomes active due to a weak immune system.
- Congenital CMV is when infection occurs during pregnancy and affects the unborn child.
Symptoms will depend on the type of CMV. If symptoms do occur, they may include fever, night sweats, fatigue, sore throat, swollen glands, muscle pain, shortness of breath, pneumonia, jaundice, seizures, etc.
Acquired cytomegalovirus can spread between people through bodily fluids, such as saliva, semen, blood, urine, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Infection may also occur by touching a surface infected with saliva or urine, and then touching the inside of the nose or mouth. Most people who become infected were exposed during childhood, at daycare centers, nurseries, and places where children are in close contact with each other.
A blood test can detect the antibodies which are created when the immune system responds to the presence of CMV.
A pregnant woman has a very small risk of reactivation infecting her developing baby. If congenital CMV is suspected, the baby must be tested within the first 3 weeks of life. Testing later than 3 weeks will not be conclusive for congenital CMV, because the infection could have happened after birth.
Any patient with a weakened immune system should be tested, even if there is no active CMV infection.
Scientists are searching for a CMV vaccine, but as yet there is no cure.
People with acquired CMV, who are infected for the first time, can use over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), ibuprofen, or aspirin to relieve symptoms, and should drink plenty of fluids.
Patients with congenital or recurring CMV can use anti-viral medications such as ganciclovir to slow the spread of the virus. These medications may have adverse effects. If there is extensive organ damage, hospitalization may be necessary. Newborns may need to stay in the hospital until their organ functions return to normal.
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- 21 Aug 2018
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