Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that can infect almost anyone. It is a herpes virus that can infect babies and children. A pregnant woman may pass CMV to her baby. This infection may go unnoticed for months or years. And the virus may lie in a dormant state for years and can become active suddenly and result in fatal consequences. It can severely affect those who have autoimmune disorders, have undergone organ transplants, or simply have weak immune systems.
What Is Cytomegalovirus?
Cytomegalovirus is a herpes virus that spreads from person to person. In normal healthy people, nothing much happens but it can prove fatal for people with a weakened immune system. Babies get cytomegalovirus when their mothers get infected by it and there’s no cure available for it. Some medications are, however, shown to ease the symptoms and help newborns out when they first contract it. According to an NCBI study, the virus affects all humans at some point in their lives.
Causes of CMV in Infants
Some of the causes of CMV infection in a baby are:
- Coming into contact with infected semen, vaginal fluids, urine, or saliva.
- When the mother passes on the virus through breastfeeding, it’s dubbed as perinatal CMV.
- Mothers infected with this virus prior to conception may pass it on to their babies during pregnancy. This is referred to as congenital CMV.
- When couples with CMV have sexual intercourse and conceive, the virus may get transmitted to the foetus.
Symptoms of Cytomegalovirus in Babies
The scary part about having a CMV virus baby is that sometimes symptoms may not show up for months or years. Some of the common symptoms that do show up are:
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Yellowish skin or yellowing of the eyes
- A malfunctioning liver
- Rashes on the body
- Problems with vision and hearing
- Enlargement of the spleen
- Trouble in bowel movement
- Swelling or inflammation of the lymph nodes
Diagnosis of CMV Infection in Babies
CMV goes undetected in healthy mothers and infants in most cases. Early detection and prevention is important before the condition becomes fatal. Some of the recommended tests to diagnose CMV in babies are:
- Sample analysis of urine cultures, saliva, and blood.
- Complete blood cells count test.
- Liver test.
- CT scan of the neurological system.
- Analysis and examination of the amniotic fluid.
How Does CMV Affect Babies?
CMV can have harmful effects on a baby if it’s left untreated. Some of the things that may happen when a CMV positive baby is left ignored are:
- Development delays and growth abnormalities in the baby.
- A mother may have trouble breastfeeding her baby.
- The newborn may die.
- A baby may be born with defects like abnormal head size, poor vision, and hearing loss.
- Lack of fine and gross motor development.
- A baby may have rashes.
- A baby may have jaundice.
The treatment for this infection will vary depending on the severity of the infection, the age, and the overall health condition of the body. Doctors don’t recommend pursuing any treatment until it’s confirmed that the newborn is infected with the virus. If there is a case of CMV virus in the baby, medications are administered to the newborn for treating the virus.
In the following situations, medicines may be given to the baby:
- If the baby has poor eyesight.
- If the baby has low blood platelet count.
- If the baby’s lungs are inflammed and the newborn has undergone an organ transplant or has a weakened immune system.
Can It Be Prevented?
The spread of CMV can be minimised or at least, the risk of the infection can be lowered, by practising good hygiene and making lifestyle changes. Here are a few tips:
- Do not keep any contaminated substances near your newborn.
- If you are infected with CMV, avoid kissing your baby on the lips.
- Get your partner tested before you decide to have sexual intercourse or conceive. This is a good way to prevent the virus from getting transmitted, especially if you haven’t been affected by it yet.
- Do not share your utensils, cups, bath towels, and any other personal/hygiene items with anyone else in the house.
- Make sure to wash your hands and pat dry before and after touching your baby’s urine or saliva.
- Make sure to clean your hands before and after changing your baby’s diapers.
- As a rule of thumb, use sanitary gloves and never feed your baby with bare hands. Your baby will stay safe and the virus doesn’t accidentally enter through their mouth. Be sure to be mindful of preparing the food and washing the raw ingredients well before cooking.
Be sure to watch out for the signs and symptoms in your newborn. If you haven’t conceived yet or are planning to for the future, get your partner and yourself tested and undergo the required treatment to lower the risk of transmitting the infection. You can prevent your baby from getting CMV infection if you take the necessary steps and measures to prevent it.