Cytomegalovirus Infection

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) can cause a variety of infections with varying degrees of severity depending on one's age and immune status.

Adults usually have no symptoms or mild flu like symptoms. Newborns can be infected in utero and develop fatal infections. Immunocompromised individuals – commonly HIV infected or transplant recipients - can also develop severe illness with a variety of organs being affected.

Where does it occur?

Cytomegalovirus occurs worldwide. A higher prevalence is seen in lower socio-economic groups.

How is it transmitted?

It is most commonly transmitted by intimate contact with respiratory secretions. (CMV is shed in saliva, breast milk, semen, cervical secretions and urine.) Mothers can pass infection to the infant either across the placenta or during delivery from cervical secretions. It can also be transmitted during sexual intercourse, blood transfusion or organ transplantation.

Is it contagious from person to person?

Yes, it can be transmitted by activities of intimate kissing, sexual intercourse, sharing of eating utensils and drinking cups etc. An infected person could shed the virus for months.

What is the risk for travelers?

Generally the risk is low; most adults (40-80%) have had the infection and are immune.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Initial symptoms usually develop within 2-6 weeks after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Neonates: Symptoms only develop in 25% of cases. When seen symptoms are fever, lethargy, jaundice, enlarged liver and spleen, rash and seizures.

Adults: Flu or “mono” like symptoms are seen with fever, body aches, joint pains, swollen lymph glands and fatigue.

HIV: Symptoms are usually due to reactivation of virus that had been dormant. When reactivation develops one can see retinal changes that may lead to blindness as well as diarrhea with bowel involvement.

Transplant: Solid or bone marrow transplant (BMT) can develop cough and shortness of breath with pneumonia, diarrhea with colitis, and jaundice with hepatitis. One can develop headache, weakness, seizures and paralysis with spinal and meningeal involvement.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

CMV PCR tests are available on blood or body fluids.

Is there any treatment?

Antibiotics like gancyclovir or cidofovir are effective.

What preventive measures can be taken?

No specific preventive measures are available.

advice for your illness and travel
learn about an exotic disease