Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common infection caused by a type of herpes virus. Once infected, the virus remains in your body for the rest of your life. It is often in a sleeping state but can be activated by stressful situations.
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The virus is passed between people through body fluids. CMV can be passed during:
- Sexual intercourse
- Changing the diaper of an infected infant
This virus is so common throughout the US that everyone is considered at risk for CMV. People with the highest risk of getting this virus include:
The virus does not cause any symptoms when it is inactive. The virus may be activated because of stressful situations, medication, illness, or reduced immunity. Symptoms of the activated virus include:
- Swollen lymph glands
- Sore throat
People with suppressed or impaired immune systems can also develop:
CMV infection is not often diagnosed because the virus rarely produces symptoms. If CMV is suspected, the doctor may look for signs of the infection in blood or fluid samples. A biopsy may also be done on organs that are affected.
Most people infected with CMV will not need a specific treatment. Treatment may be needed if the virus is reactivated and you have a weakened immune system.
Antiviral medications may be used for people who have an organ transplant or a suppressed immune system. These medications do not cure CMV but can decrease the symptoms and duration of the illness.
There is no way to prevent CMV, but there are some measures that can decrease your chance of the infection:
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Properly dispose of diapers.
- Do not share glasses or eating utensils.
- Avoiding intimate contact with people known to have the CMV infection.
- Practice safe sex.
- David L. Horn, MD, FACP
- Reviewed: 06/2015
- Updated: 06/19/2014
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