Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(3):526

What is cytomegalovirus?

Cytomegalovirus (say: “si-toe-meg-ah-low-vi-russ”) or CMV is a virus that infects cells and causes them to become enlarged. Many people are infected with CMV and don't even know it. People are usually infected by the time they are two years old or during their teenaged years. CMV usually causes no long-term problems. However, CMV can cause problems in a newborn if the mother gets the infection during pregnancy.

CMV is only spread through contact with an infected person's body fluids (such as saliva, blood, urine, semen, or breast milk). It can also be sexually transmitted. Careful handwashing with soap and water can help prevent the spread of CMV.

What are the symptoms of CMV?

Usually, there are no symptoms. A few people will have symptoms that are similar to mononucleosis (such as a sore throat, fever, headache, and being tired). People who have weakened immune systems because of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or because they received an organ transplant may have severe symptoms.

How will my doctor know if I have CMV?

Because usually there are no symptoms, your doctor won't know that you have CMV. If you do have symptoms, your doctor may test your blood to look for CMV. People who have HIV should be seen by an eye doctor as recommended by their doctor to make sure the virus hasn't infected their eyes. Also, people with HIV should let their doctor know if they are having any painless blurring of their vision, “floaters” only in one eye, light flashes, areas of blindness, and shortness of breath.

Is there a treatment for CMV?

There is no vaccine for CMV. Because CMV is a virus, antibiotics won't work. If your body's immune system is normal, your body should be able to control the infection. If your immune system is weakened, your doctor may use one of several different medicines to treat CMV infection.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your doctor.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Telephone: 1-800-311-3435

    Web address:www.cdc.gov

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