Cytomegalovirus (also called CMV) is a common virus that infects people of all ages. In fact, more than half of adults in the United States become infected with CMV by age 40. Yet most people have never heard of it. June is CMV Awareness Month. Learn more about the disease and how you can protect yourself—and your baby.
What is CMV?
CMV is a virus. You could get CMV by coming in direct contact with body fluids from a person who’s infected with the virus. Adults usually get CMV by having sex with someone who has CMV or by having contact with young children who have CMV.
Most people with CMV infection have no symptoms and aren’t aware that they have been infected.
Signs and symptoms of CMV in healthy people may include:
- Chills and/or sweats
- Decreased appetite
- Fatigue (being very tired and having little energy)
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
Can CMV harm my baby?
You can pass CMV to your baby at any time during pregnancy. Once you’ve been infected, CMV stays in your body for life. You can still pass it to your baby, but this is rare and usually doesn’t cause any harm to your baby. You’re more likely to pass it on if you get infected for the first time during pregnancy or if a past CMV infection becomes active again, especially in the third trimester. You also can pass CMV to your baby during labor and birth, or while nursing. If your baby gets the virus during these times and was born at a healthy weight, they probably won’t have health problems. Preterm babies (babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and low-birthweight babies (babies born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) may get sick if they’re infected during birth or while you’re nursing.
Most babies born with CMV never show signs of the disease and don’t have health problems. However, babies who are infected with CMV at birth may have long-term health problems, including:
- Hearing loss
- Intellectual and developmental disabilities
- Coordination issues or muscle weakness
- Smaller than expected head (called microcephaly)
- Vision loss
How can I protect myself from CMV?
Here are some things you can do:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after being in contact with body fluids from babies or children. Carefully throw away used diapers and tissues. Wash your hands after changing diapers, feeding a child, wiping noses and picking up toys.
- Avoid contact with tears or saliva if you kiss a child, especially if you’re pregnant. Kiss babies and children on the cheek or head instead of on the lips.
- Don’t share toothbrushes, food, drinks, cups, straws, forks or other utensils with young children or with anyone who may have CMV. Don’t put a baby’s pacifier in your mouth.
- Clean toys and countertops often.
- If your partner has CMV, use a latex condom during sex or don’t have sex at all.
- If you’re a health care worker in contact with people who have CMV, including newborns, follow workplace safety rules to protect yourself from infection. Wash your hands often and wear gloves.
Contact your provider if you have the signs or symptoms of CMV or if you have been in contact with someone with the virus.