Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness

June is National Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness month.

Although Congenital Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is the most common virus transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, many people still aren’t aware of the dangers of this virus.

National Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month Facts

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What is Congenital Cytomegalovirus?

Congenital Cytomealovirus, or CMV, is a member of the herpes family and is a common virus found in saliva, urine, tears, blood, and mucus. It is carried by 75% of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and children who contract the virus from their peers.

60% of women are at risk for contracting CMV during their pregnancy. Fortunately, of babies born with the virus, 90% are born without symptoms. The remaining 10% have varying abnormalities. As the most common viral cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities, abnormalities include blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, mental and physical disabilities, seizures, and even death.

Like most herpes viruses, once the CMV virus is in someone, it stays there for life. There are 3 varying types of CMV:

  • Primary – First time someone contracts Congenital Cytomealovirus. There won’t be any pre-existing immunity to the virus.
  • Recurrent – When a previous CMV infection that was considered dormant becomes active again. This usually occurs when someone’s immune system is compromised. The good news is if you’ve already been exposed to CMV, your body has already built up antibodies to fight against it. If you are pregnant, these antibodies, along with other immune factors, usually protect the baby from the more serious illnesses.
  • Reinfection – This is when a new infection occurs with a different strain of the virus.  However, this type is so unusual, consequences are unknown at this time.

What are signs of CMV?

Most people who come in contact with the virus won’t experience any symptoms, and may never know they were ever infected. For those who do, varying signs can occur, from mild illness to common cold-like symptoms. Here’s a list of varying symptoms that could occur:

  • Fatigue
  • High/Prolonged Fever
  • Swollen Glands/Swelling of Lymph Nodes
  • Sore Throat
  • Muscle/Joint Aches and Stiffness
  • Night Sweats
  • Weakness
  • General Discomfort, Feeling Ill or Uneasy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weight Loss

Unfortunately, these are all symptoms of other common illnesses, so one may never know its due to contracting the Congenital Cytomegalovirus. CMV is typically harmless to the general population; however, for people with weakened immune systems, the virus can cause serious problems. Anyone who has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, has had chemothreapy or organ transplant(s), or takes medications such as glucocorticoids, cytostatics, antibodies, and drugs acting on immunophilins, should be extra cautious of contracting the CMV virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 50-80% of people in the United States have had a Congenital Cytomegalovirus infection by the time they reach 40 years old.

How can I contract CMV?

The virus is spread from one person to another, typically through bodily fluids such as saliva, urine, and breast milk. The most common is contact with the saliva or urine of young children, especially those who are around or work with young children such as mothers of young children, people who work at daycares, preschool teachers, nurses, and therapists.

How do you prevent CMV?

Standard hygiene procedures will significantly reduce one’s chances of coming in contact with the CMV virus. Basic prevention measures include:

  • Frequent hand washing, especially after changing diapers, feeding a child, handling a child’s toy, or wiping the mouth or nose of a child.
  • Avoid kissing young children on the mouth.
  • Avoid sharing food, towels, or utensils with small children.
  • Wearing protection for sexual intercourse, as contact with an someone infected with CMV, although not common, is possible.

Talk to a Doctor

If you have concerns about CMV, talk to your doctor. A blood sample drawn for a CMV IgG and IgM antibody tests can let you know if you have the virus. If you have any questions or concerns, call us or schedule an appointment with your Southeast Women’s Center doctor today.

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