Familiar with cytomegalovirus (sy-toe-MEG-a-low-vy-rus)? Most people aren’t. Yet, cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a common virus that affects thousands of people — of all ages — every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- 50 – 80% of adults have been infected with CMV by the age of 40
- One in three children are infected with CMV by the age of five
- One out of every 150 babies are born with congenital CMV
Q: Would I know if I had CMV?
A: Not necessarily.
If you’ve never heard of CMV, you’re not alone. The National CMV Foundation says that only 9% of women have. With such a high infection rate, this number might sound incredibly low, but there’s good reason for the lack of awareness: CMV is relatively harmless and symptom free in healthy children and adults.
A virus with very different outcomes
For those with a healthy immune system, CMV rarely causes problems. When mild illness does occur, symptoms are cold-like and may include fever, sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches and swollen glands. However mild though, once a person is infected, it remains in the body as a lifelong virus that can reactivate and reinfect with different virus strains.
For people with weakened or compromised immune systems, CMV can be much more serious. The Mayo Clinic notes that CMV can present itself as a mononucleosis-like illness or it can attack specific organs such as the eyes, liver or stomach. In these cases, symptoms may include fever, pneumonia, behavioral changes, seizures and visual impairment or blindness, among other critical signs.
Equally concerning is the effect congenital CMV, as it is called when it infects a child before birth, can have on babies. Although outcomes vary by child, congenital CMV can have lasting and distressing results, including hearing loss, mental disability, microcephaly, cerebral palsy and feeding issues. We’ll explore congenital CMV further in our next blog post.
Another reason good hygiene matters
With CMV being relatively transparent in so many people, it stands to reason that transmission and prevention awareness is equally low. What do you need to know? First, CMV is communicable and is spread in a number of ways, including sexual contact and direct contact with bodily fluids, including saliva, urine, tears or breast milk. CMV can also be passed from a mother to baby during pregnancy and from a donor to patient through transplanted organs and blood transfusions.
Next, you need to know that good hygiene is the best prevention of CMV. Thorough and frequent hand washing, avoidance of utensil or cup sharing, and condom use during sex, all help reduce the spread of infection. You can read more prevention tips on the Mayo Clinic’s website.
A simple test
If you have exhibited CMV symptoms or are planning to get pregnant, a simple blood test can diagnose your exposure and risk. To schedule your test, contact a physician at Women’s Care Florida.