ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Nasty Infectious Diseases You Want To Avoid - Cytomegalovirus

Updated on December 31, 2008

This is a disease caused by cytomegalovirus, one of the Herpes family of viruses. The CMV is the largest, most complex virus that infects humans. First discovered in 1956, this extremely common infection has affected almost all children, yet rarely produces symptoms. By adulthood, up to 85 percent of Americans have been infected. While not usually a serious disease, those with impaired immunity may have more severe symptoms. Cytomegalovirus also may cause significant problems during pregnancy if a woman has an acute infection, which would be transmitted to her unborn child. This can lead to minor impairments affecting hearing, vision, or mental capacity; a few of these babies are born with severe brain damage, including mental retardation or severe hearing loss. Once a person has been infected, the virus remains latent in the body like other herpes viruses and can be reactivated later on during periods of stress or weakened immunity.

Cause - CMV is present in almost all body fluids, including urine, saliva, semen, breast milk, and blood. It can be sexually transmitted, although most people don't get it this way. It is commonly found in day care centers, where it is passed around in children's saliva or urine-soaked diapers and transmitted, although most people don't get it this way. It is commonly found in day care centers, where it is passed around in children's saliva or urine soaked diapers and transmitted from unwashed hands or shared toys. Women with toddlers in day care are often infected, since CMV transmission happens often in these institutions. While young children rarely have symptoms, they excrete the virus in their urine and saliva for months to years. Anyone who works with young children is exposed to CMV. It is also possible to acquire CMV from transfused blood or transplanted organs, since so many individuals have an infection without having symptoms. A person having an organ transplant or chemotherapy for cancer takes drugs that suppress the immune system; if such a patient had been infected with CMV earlier in life, the dormant virus can reactivate, resulting in lifethreatening illness. If a patient taking these drugs has a first exposure to the virus, the new infection can cause a serious illness. In AIDS patients, reactivation of a CMV infection can lead to serious eye infections called retinitis, as well as hepatitis, encephalitis, colitis and pneumonia.

Symptoms - Very few adults (including pregnant women) have symptoms when infected; if they do, symptoms will be mild, including achiness, low fever, and sore throat. Young children may experience a mild cold or flulike illness with fever. However, if a woman is first exposed to this virus early in pregnancy, the resulting infection can cause serious fetal abnormalities. About 40,000 infants in the United States are infected each year, but almost all babies infected before birth are normal. About 10 percent of babies infected before birth are sick with the symptoms listed above. Of these 10 percent, 20 to 30 percent have a "congenital CMV syndrome" with serious symptoms that may be fatal. These symptoms include problems of major organs, including the liver, brain, eyes, and lungs together with convulsions, lethargy, and breathing problems. If such a profoundly affected infant survives, there may be permanent damage (mental retardation, water on the brain, small brain, hearing loss, eye inflammation, poor coordination, and liver disease). Some studies suggest that a few apparently normal babies who were infected at birth may encounter health problems later in life. Babies infected before birth excrete the virus intermittently for years and are infectious when shedding the virus. While CMV doesn't usually cause a problem for healthy people, it can sometimes lead to an acute illness resembling infectious mononucleosis that is almost identical to the infection associated with Epstein-Barr virus, including a fever of two to three weeks, inflamed liver, and sometimes a rash. Healthy people with CMV mono have an excellent prognosis.

Diagnosis - Test results for CMV can be misleading. Blood can be tested for the CMV antibody, but all the presence of antibody indicates is that there was an earlier infection. The test won't reveal whether the virus is presently in blood, urine, or saliva. If a patient has symptoms that imply a recently acquired infection, sequential tests may reveal changes in antibody levels that indicate an active infection. The test for virus in these fluids is available in most large hospital and commercial labs, but results may take between two and six weeks. Newborns with possible congenital CMV infection must have the virus cultured from their urine, nose, eyes, or spinal fluid to confirm CMV. This can be helpful in diagnosing potential future problems such as hearing loss. In patients with impaired immunity, tests can be helpful to measure the effectiveness of therapy.

Treatment - There is no cure for congenital CMV; babies with the disease need to be hospitalized. In AIDS patients, treatment includes two intravenous antiviral drugs, ganciclovir or foscarnet. These drugs are not recommended for those with healthy immune systems because the side effects from the drugs are more severe than the risks of the illness.

Prevention - Good hygiene can reduce the risk of transmission at day care centers, but intensive infection control is not practical when dealing with a virus as common as CMV. People who need organ transplants are tested for antibodies to CMV; those who do not have the antibodies will be matched to donors without antibodies as well. Because a match isn't always possible, the recipient faces a risk of serious CMV infection from the transplanted organ later. CMV-negative organ recipients who need blood transfusions will be given special CMV-negative blood, which is rare and saved for special cases. There is no generally accepted, valid and widespread vaccine currently available for CMV. Antibodies from those with high levels of immunity are available in the form of hyperimmune globulins for certain high-risk patients, but use of these products is expensive and of limited value. Researchers studying the feasibility of a CMV vaccine believe that widespread vaccination of children with a safe, effective vaccine is justified to protect unborn children from birth defects by reducing the risk that mothers are exposed to infected children. Researchers are studying a possible recombinant CMV vaccine.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Sarah Wingate profile image

      Sarah Wingate 

      5 years ago from Tel Aviv, Israel

      CMV is a nonlethal virus that in itself should not cause much concern. However, as it is mentioned in the article, the problem begins if the virus attacks a pregnant woman. I know of women whose body does not have antibodies to handle the virus. Getting pregnant for them is very scary.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)