Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus that can be transmitted to a developing child before birth. CMV infection is usually harmless and rarely causes illness in adults.

For most healthy persons who acquire CMV after birth, there are few symptoms and no long-term health consequences. Once a person becomes infected, the virus remains alive, but usually dormant within that person’s body for life. There are two different types of infection: primary CMV and recurrent CMV infection. Primary infection can cause more serious problems in pregnancy than recurrent infection can. However, if a person's immune system is seriously weakened in any way, the virus can become active and cause CMV disease.

For the majority of people who have a CMV infection, it is not a serious problem. Once CMV is in a person's body it stays there for life. Most CMV infections are "silent," meaning they cause no signs or symptoms in an infected person. However, CMV can cause disease in unborn babies and in people with a weakened immune system.

Transmission of CMV requires direct contact with virus-containing secretions. The risk of getting CMV through casual contact is very small. The virus is generally passed from infected people to others through direct contact with body fluids, such as urine, saliva, semen, cervical secretions, breast milk, or blood. CMV transmission is documented both in the home and in daycare settings. Hand washing and using gloves are excellent ways to prevent infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend isolation for infants, children, or adult patients who are CMV positive. Many hospitalized patients have already had CMV. Surgery or hospitalization may cause a CMV infection to recur, causing these patients to shed CMV. Standard Precautions are recommended.

Additional information:

CMV Exposure in Pregnancy

Keywords: CMV, cytomegalovirus