Cytomegalovirus Symptoms & Causes

Why is cytomegalovirus harmful?

Most people who have CMV aren’t aware of it because the virus rarely produces symptoms. The biggest concern is for people who have weak immune systems and women who become infected while pregnant.

Over half of women of childbearing age become infected with CMV at least six months before becoming pregnant.

  • There appear to be few risks for complications of CMV for this group and only a few babies have the infection at birth.
  • These babies appear to have no significant illness or abnormalities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 to 4 percent of women first become infected with CMV during pregnancy.

  • With a first infection during pregnancy, there is a higher risk that after birth the baby may have CMV-related complications.
  • About 5 to 10 percent of babies with congenital CMV will have signs of the infection at birth. Of these, over 90 percent will have serious complications including hearing loss, visual impairment, mental retardation, autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy or sometimes death.
  • Premature babies may be at increased risk for these problems.

Although CMV may be transmitted at delivery or through breast milk, these infections usually do not cause illness in a full-term baby. Premature babies, however, are at greater risk for health complications from CMV transmission through breast milk.

How is cytomegalovirus spread?

  • CMV is found in bodily fluids such as saliva, urine, semen and others.
  • The virus is easily spread in households and in daycare centers.
  • It can be transmitted to the fetus during pregnancy and to the baby during delivery or in breast milk.

How can I prevent catching cytomegalovirus?

Although an infected person may transmit the virus at any time, proper hand washing with soap and water is effective in removing the virus from the hands.

What are the symptoms of cytomegalovirus?

Most babies with congenital CMV do not have symptoms of the infection at birth. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include: 

The symptoms of CMV may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's physician for a diagnosis.