National Congenital Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that infects people of all ages and is usually harmless to people with a healthy immune system. Most people have been exposed to CMV at some point in their lifetime without realizing it. It is estimated that 50-80% of adults in the United States have been infected with CMV by the time they reach 40 years old. Most infections with CMV are “silent” or asymptomatic, meaning most people who are infected with CMV have no signs or symptoms. Once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life. Congenital CMV infection occurs when a pregnant woman is exposed to CMV and the CMV passes from the pregnant woman to her unborn child, causing birth defects and developmental disabilities.
Acquired CMV infection is when a person is infected with CMV after birth, during childhood or adulthood.
Most healthy people with an acquired CMV infection will generally have few, if any, symptoms or complications from the infection. Because infections among healthy persons are common and typically asymptomatic, efforts to prevent transmission among healthy children and adults are not necessary.
CMV can cause serious problems for people with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised) due to organ transplants, HIV/AIDS infection, chemotherapy, and medications such as glucocorticoids, cytostatics, antibodies, drugs acting on immunophilins, as well as other drugs.
In children and adults with organ transplants, CMV infections are linked with rejection or malfunction of the transplant.
In immunocompromised people, CMV can attack specific organs. Types and symptoms of CMV infections include, but are not exclusive/limited to:
- Esophagus (CMV esophagitis)
- Stomach or intestines (CMV gastroenteritis) – Diarrhea, swallowing difficulties or pain, and ulcerations with bleeding
- Eye (CMV retinitis) – Blindness, floaters in the eye, and visual impairment
- Lung (CMV pneumonia) – Pneumonia with impaired oxygen uptake (hypoxia)
- Brain – Coma, encephalitis with behavioral changes, and seizures