Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that usually causes no or only mild symptoms. Cytomegalovirus testing detects antibodies in the blood that the body produces in response to the infection or detects CMV directly.
The Epidemiology of Cytomegalovirus:
In the United States, as many as 60% of people have been exposed to Cytomegalovirus at some point in their life. Almost 1 out of every 3 children have been exposed to Cytomegalovirus by age 5 and more than half of adults are exposed to Cytomegalovirus by age 40.
Signs and symptoms:
Most people are infected as children or as young adults, but many don’t know it because Cytomegalovirus usually does not cause noticeable symptoms or only mild illness in otherwise healthy people. Individuals with mild illness may have non-specific signs and symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, tiredness, and swollen glands. In otherwise healthy adults, Cytomegalovirus infection may sometimes cause a flu-like illness or signs and symptoms similar to mononucleosis (mono), such as extreme fatigue, fever, chills, body aches, and/or headaches that usually resolve within a few weeks.
Detection and infection of Cytomegalovirus:
Cytomegalovirus is found in many body fluids during an active infection, including saliva, urine, blood, breast milk, semen, vaginal fluid, and cerebrospinal fluid. Cytomegalovirus easily spreads from person to person through close contact with someone who is infected or by contact with contaminated body fluids or objects, such as diapers or toys.
Activation and reactivation of Cytomegalovirus:
Once you are infected, Cytomegalovirus remains in your body for the rest of your life without causing symptoms. After your initial “primary” infection resolves, Cytomegalovirus becomes dormant or latent, like other members of the herpes family. However, if your immune system is significantly weakened, the virus can become active again (reactivate) and cause illness.
Cytomegalovirus can cause notable health problems in these situations:
– A pregnant woman who is infected for the first time (primary infection) during pregnancy can pass the infection to her developing baby across the placenta. This can cause serious physical and developmental problems in the baby. Most newborns (about 90%) who are infected appear healthy at birth but may develop hearing or vision problems, pneumonia, seizures, and/or delayed mental development a few months later. A few babies may be stillborn, while others may have symptoms at birth such as jaundice, anemia, an enlarged spleen or liver, and a small head.
– Cytomegalovirus can cause serious illness and death in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, solid organ or bone marrow transplant recipients, and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. These individuals might experience the most severe symptoms and their Cytomegalovirus infection may remain active. Cytomegalovirus may reactivate in those who were previously exposed. The infection could affect the:
- Eyes, causing inflammation of the retina, which can lead to blindness
- Digestive tract, causing bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain
- Lungs, causing pneumonia with a non-productive cough and shortness of breath
- Brain, causing encephalitis
- Spleen and liver
- Organ or bone marrow transplants, causing some degree of rejection
Active Cytomegalovirus also further depresses the immune system, allowing other secondary infections such as fungal infections, to occur.
Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used for the test, and other things. Your test results may not mean you have a problem. Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.
The information on healthmatters.io is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.