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Cytomegalovirus Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on November 1, 2009

Infections with cytomegalovirus (CMV) are extremely common, and at any one time, between 10% and 25% of the entire population are infected with this virus. In all but a tiny percentage of these infected people, there are absolutely no symptoms, and they appear and feel totally well. Infection rates may be in excess of 80% in homosexual men, where the virus is sexually transmitted. Normally, CMV passes from one person to another in saliva or as droplets in the breath. In some cases, infection has spread through blood transfusions.

A CMV infection may be a serious illness in patients who have reduced immunity due to treatment with cytotoxic drugs for cancer, have suffered other serious illnesses, are anemic, suffering from AIDS or other immune affecting diseases, or who are extremely run-down from stress or overwork. If a pregnant woman with reduced immunity acquires a significant CMV infection, her baby may be affected in the womb. The baby can be born with liver damage (jaundice), enlarged liver and spleen, poor ability to clot blood, and bruises. More seriously, up to a third of affected babies may be born with mental retardation, and one in six are deaf. Adults with reduced immunity who develop a significant infection with CMV, will suffer from a fever, headaches, overwhelming tiredness, muscle and joint pains, enlarged glands and an inflamed liver.

The disease can be detected by specific blood tests, and the virus may be found in sputum, saliva, urine and other body fluids. There is no specific treatment for CMV infections, although some anti-viral drugs are being used experimentally. Aspirin and/or paracetamol is used to control fever and pain, and prolonged rest is required for recovery. In patients with severely reduced immunity, pneumonia and hepatitis may develop, and these can prove fatal.

Please Note:


  • The information provided on this page is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a registered physician or other healthcare professional.

  • The content of this page is intended only to provide a summary and general overview. Do not use this information to disregard medical advice, nor to delay seeking medical advice.

  • Be sure to consult with your doctor for a professional diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment.

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