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Congenital cytomegalovirus

Cytomegalovirus (pronounced sy-toe-MEG-a-low-vy-rus), or CMV, is a common virus that infects people of all ages. In the United States, nearly one in three children are already infected with CMV by age 5 years. Over half of adults by age 40 have been infected with CMV. Once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life and can reactivate. A person can also be reinfected with a different strain (variety) of the virus.

Most people infected with CMV show no signs or symptoms. That’s because a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the virus from causing illness. However, CMV infection can cause serious health problems for people with weakened immune systems, as well as babies infected with the virus before they are born (congenital CMV).

Congenital CMV infection
When a baby is born with cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, it is called congenital CMV infection. About one out of every 200 babies are born with congenital CMV infection. However, only about one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will be sick from the virus or will have long-term health problems.

Women can pass CMV to their baby during pregnancy. The virus in the woman’s blood can cross through the placenta and infect the baby. This can happen when a pregnant woman experiences a first-time infection, a reinfection with a different CMV strain (variety), or a reactivation of a previous infection during pregnancy.

Signs & Symptoms
Most babies with congenital CMV infection never show signs or have health problems. However, some babies may have health problems that are apparent at birth or may develop later during infancy or childhood. Although not fully understood, it is possible for CMV to cause the death of a baby during pregnancy (pregnancy loss).

Some babies may have signs of congenital CMV infection at birth. These signs include

  • Premature birth,
  • Liver, lung and spleen problems,
  • Small size at birth,
  • Small head size, and
  • Seizures.

Some babies with signs of congenital CMV infection at birth may have long-term health problems, such as

  • Hearing loss,
  • Vision loss,
  • Intellectual disability,
  • Small head size,
  • Lack of coordination,
  • Weakness or problems using muscles, and
  • Seizures.

Some babies without signs of congenital CMV infection at birth may have hearing loss. Hearing loss may be present at birth or may develop later in babies who passed their newborn hearing test.

Congenital CMV infection can be diagnosed by testing a newborn baby’s saliva, urine, or blood. Such specimens must be collected for testing within two to three weeks after the baby is born in order to confirm a diagnosis of congenital CMV infection.

Treatment and Management
Medicines, called antivirals, may decrease the risk of health problems and hearing loss in some infected babies who show signs of congenital CMV infection at birth.

Use of antivirals for treating babies with congenital CMV infection who have no signs at birth is not currently recommended.

Babies with congenital CMV infection, with or without signs at birth, should have regular hearing checks.

Regularly follow-up with your baby’s doctor to discuss the care and additional services your child may need.

This information was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Congenital CMV Infection; Overview. Available at: Accessed December 7, 2017.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congenital CMV Infection. Available at: Accessed December 7, 2017.

The information in this document is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for personalized professional advice. Although the information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, MedLink Corporation, its representatives, and the providers of the information do not guarantee its accuracy and disclaim responsibility for adverse consequences resulting from its use. For further information, consult a physician and the organization referred to herein.

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