Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that belongs to the herpes familyof viruses.

It's spread through bodily fluids, such as saliva and urine, and can be passed on through close contact with young children, such as when changing nappies.

CMV can also be passed on through kissing, having sex, or receiving an infected organ during an organ transplant.

If you do have symptoms, they're often similar to Bird flu or glandular fever , and include a high temperature (fever), sore throat and swollen glands.

It's thought that 50-80% of adults in the UK are infected with CMV.

Once you've been infected,the CMV virus stays in your body for the rest of your life, but in most cases it remains inactive and doesn't cause further problems.

However, CMV can sometimes be reactivated (recur). This usually only occurs in people who havea weakened immune system for example, due to untreated HIV or taking immunosuppressant medication to prevent transplanted organs being rejected.

It's also possible to become infected again with a different strain of the CMV virus. Thisis known as reinfection and usually causes similar symptoms to a primary infection.

Active CMV is a term that describes someone who's infectious to another person and can be due to primary infection, reinfection or reactivation.

Congenital CMV

If a pregnant woman has an activeCMV infection, the virus can be passed to her unborn baby. When it affects a baby in the womb, it's known as congenital CMV.

In the UK, it's estimated that one to two babies in every 200 will be born with congenital CMV. Of these, about 13% will have problems at birth, such as hearing loss and learning difficulties , with a similar number developing problems later on.

Treating a CMV infection

CMV isn't usually diagnosed becauseit doesn't cause symptoms for most people. If you're at risk of developing complications, a blood test can help determine whether you've ever had CMV or if you've recently caught it for the first time.

Urine and saliva swab tests can be used to find out whether a newborn baby has congenital CMV.

Most CMV infections are mild, don't cause symptoms and don't need to be treated. If you do have symptoms, painkillers can be used to help reduce any pain or fever.

Active CMV in someone with a weakened immune system is usually treated with antiviral medicines, which slow the spread of the virus. Some cases may need to be treated in hospital. Babies with congenital CMV may also need antiviral treatment.

This is particularly important after changingnappies.You should also try to avoid coming into contact with the saliva of young children.

Research is currently being carried out to find a possible vaccine forCMV. However, it's unlikely that a vaccine willbe available for several years.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 22 Aug 2016