Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

By: Dr. Sean Tarride

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus for people of all ages; however, a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the virus from causing illness, including in pregnant women.

A pregnant woman infected with CMV can pass the virus to her unborn baby. The virus in the woman’s blood can cross through the placenta and infect the baby. CMV affects 1 in 200 or 0.5% of all newborns. Only 1 in 10 babies will show any signs of CMV infection with most being very mild from the self-limiting disease.

Signs and symptoms in babies

Some babies with congenital CMV infection may show these signs at birth.

  • Rash
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Microcephaly (small head)
  • Low birth weight
  • Hepatosplenomegaly (enlarged liver and spleen)
  • Seizures
  • Retinitis (damaged eye retina)

Some babies with signs of congenital CMV infection at birth may have long-term health problems, such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Developmental and motor delay
  • Vision loss
  • Microcephaly (small head)
  • Seizures

What are the signs and symptoms pregnant women should look for?

Signs and symptoms of CMV in pregnant women may include fever, night sweats, sore throat, swollen glands, joint and muscle pain, low appetite, and weight loss.

Are there risk factors patients should be aware of?

If you have had a previous pregnancy affected with CMV, or if you have frequent contact with young children, you may be at greater risk of CMV infection as young children are a common source of CMV. CMV can be present in a child’s body fluids for months after they become infected, although many children do not show any symptoms.

Is there anything patients can do to prevent CMV?

Similar to protecting yourself from other viruses, be sure to practice good hand washing when handling children.

What are the treatment options for CMV?

For babies with signs of congenital CMV infection at birth, antiviral medication can be given, primarily valganciclovir, and may improve hearing and developmental outcomes.

Be sure to mention to your Women’s Care provider if you come into contact with a child or person known to be infected with CMV.