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Cytomegalovirus

Cytomegalovirus

Cytomegalovirus2 CytomegalovirusEven though roughly 80% of adult Americans have been infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV), most people have never heard of it.  Yet another strain of the herpes virus and it is also known as human herpes virus 5.  It is similar to EBV in that is lives in the lymphocytes in the immune system.  It is also transmitted though fluids such as saliva and is also considered highly contagious.

For the most part CMV causes symptoms that are so mild, people don’t even know they are infected.  Although some people do end up with mononulceosis, but often there will be mild flu-like symptoms that are passed off as another condition altogether.  Like chicken pox and EBV, CMV will be suppressed by the body after the initial infection.  Since it never returns, most people never know they have been infected.

While CMV is not harmful to otherwise healthy adults, it can result in serious complications in people how have weaker immune systems.  It can cause liver failure, blindness, gastrointestinal disease, and even pneumonia.

CMV is also the most common congenital virus.  This means that it is present at birth.  Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their unborn babies.  There is about a 40% chance that an infected mother will pass it along to her baby.  If you are concerned about this, there are tests that can be done to determine if you have the virus.

Most of the time newborns, like adults with the virus, show no signs or have symptoms that are so mild they are not noticed.  About 10% of babies born with CMV will have mild liver or spleen problems.  These issues will usually resolve without any intervention.  A small percentage will have serious complications as a result of the infection.  These can include loss of hearing and sight, physical and psychological disabilities, seizures, developmental delays, and even death.  Infected babies may show no symptoms until months or even years after birth.  It is also possible that symptoms may worsen after an initially mild outbreak.

Transmission of CMV can be reduced by frequent hand washing.  Pregnant women should also avoid the saliva and other bodily fluids of children.

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