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by Scholten A
(Cytomegalovirus)

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.

The Lymphatic Organs
The Lymphatic Organs
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Causes

CMV passes from person to person through body fluids. Examples are:

  • Kissing
  • Sexual contact
  • Breastfeeding
  • 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.

Risk Factors

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:

Symptoms

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:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding in the intestines
  • Vision problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Seizures or coma

Diagnosis

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.

Treatment

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.

Prevention

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

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

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.

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