What is Cytomegalovirus (CMV)?

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Congenital CMV, or cytomegalovirus, is the most common congenital (present at birth) infection in the United States. Every year, about 40,000 children are born with congenital CMV infection.

Cytomegalovirus Symptoms

Most babies born with CMV (“congenital” cytomegalovirus) never develop symptoms or disabilities. When babies do have symptoms, some can go away but others can be permanent.

Examples of symptoms or disabilities caused by
congenital  CMV:

Temporary Symptoms:

  • Liver problems
  • Spleen problems
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Purple skin splotches
  • Lung problems
  • Small size at birth
  • Seizures

Permanent Symptoms or Disabilities:

  • Hearing loss
  • Vision loss
  • Mental disability
  • Small head
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Death

In some children, symptoms do not appear until months or years after birth. The most common of these late-occurring symptoms are hearing loss and vision loss.

Children with congenital cytomegalovirus are more likely to have permanent disabilities and symptoms that get worse if they had symptoms of CMV infection at birth. However, some children who appear healthy at birth can develop hearing or vision loss over time due to congenital cytomegalovirus. For this reason, if you know your baby was born with cytomegalovirus, it is important to have his or her hearing and vision tested regularly.

Diagnosing Cytomegalovirus

In serious cases of CMV infection, doctors can make the diagnosis by detecting the virus in a cultured sample taken from a sick persons throat, urine, blood, or other body tissues or fluid. Blood is also drawn at different time intervals to measure levels of certain antibodies. These antibodies are part of the immune systems response to a CMV infection, and they can signal that an active CMV infection exists.

Special viral DNA-detecting tests are sometimes used to diagnosis CMV infection.

Treatment of Cytomegalovirus Infection

A cytomegalovirus infection can be life-threatening for newborn infants, so serious CMV infections may be treated with intravenous (IV) antiviral medication, usually in a hospital.

Oral antiviral medication may also be used at home once the infection is under control. Because these antiviral medicines may have serious side effects, doctors use them with great caution, especially in children.