In this Article
- What is Cytomegalovirus?
- How Common is CMV?
- Causes of CMV Infection
- Symptoms of CMV
- Diagnosis of CMV
- Risks of Cytomegalovirus
- Effects of CMV on Mother and Unborn Baby
- How Is the Virus Transmitted from Mom to Unborn?
- Cytomegalovirus Treatment
- How to Prevent CMV Infection?
- What If Your Baby Born With Infection?
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Cytomegalovirus infection is a commonly encountered virus in human beings. It causes a mild infection in adults which does not pose any severe health problem, and the body can combat it without any special treatment. Although that’s the case in adults, this virus must be treated more seriously during pregnancy. CMV virus has avidity towards pregnancy and has potential to cause congenital CMV in newborns.
What is Cytomegalovirus?
Cytomegalovirus belongs to the virus family Herpesviridaeis and is known to be one of the most common congenital viral infection which affects all age groups. Almost everyone encounters this virus in their lifetime. The virus can stay in a healthy person’s body in an inactive form without any symptoms for their entire life and even if it becomes active, the immune system can fight against it without any treatment. The CMV virus can cause severe health conditions if the person becomes immuno-compromised which can be a result of HIV infection. Congenital CMV infection is when the baby is born with the infection. It is identified as the leading cause for children developing hearing problems or even hearing loss due to non-genetic reason. Cmv virus and pregnancy are a highly discussed since it can be a threat to the baby’s health.
How Common is CMV?
CMV virus is prevalent and affects the worldwide population. It is estimated that more than 40% of people have encountered this virus by the time they are 20 years of age. Any form of close contact with an infected person can lead to transmission of the virus to the healthy person.
Causes of CMV Infection
CMV spreads from an infected person to another person through body fluids. This includes saliva, urine, faeces, tears, vaginal secretions, semen, bread milk and any other bodily secretion. CMV infection is not related to food, water or animals. Although it is not a highly contagious disease, it is seen to spread quickly among the household as a result of sharing utensils or close intimate contact with an infected individual. Also, toddlers playing or schooling together have a higher risk of transmitting CMV infection to each other.
Symptoms of CMV
CMV usually does not present with any symptoms and the person might not even know they are infected. Even if there are symptoms, they are vague and can often be confused with that of a common cold or other viral infection. It’s symptoms generally include:
- High fever (above 100F)
- A sore throat
- Muscle and joint pains
- Swollen glands
- Weakness and loss of appetite
- A weakened immune system which paves the way for other infections in severe cases like pneumonia, hepatitis, etc.
This can further worsen the immune system and make the woman susceptible to common pregnancy infections.
Congenital cytomegalovirus is a condition when the cytomegalovirus is passed on from the mother to the child before birth. It is when the condition is present in the baby at birth. Congenital CMV in pregnancy can happen during any stage where it gets transferred through the placenta to the baby. In these situations, the baby may present with the following conditions:
- Low birth weight and smaller head
- Enlarged liver and spleen
- In the long term, if it is untreated, it can cause hearing loss, visual impairment, etc.
In most cases, the baby may not present with any symptoms at birth but will develop physical or mental problems later.
Diagnosis of CMV
The symptoms of CMV can be easily confused with that of common cold or throat infection. Almost everyone encounters the virus once in their lifetimes, and once it enters the body, the virus stays in their bodies in the dormant state. Diagnosis is made by a simple blood test of the patient or sample of any other body fluid or even tissue. If the patient is CMV positive, then accordingly the doctor suggests further treatment if required. If a pregnant woman is detected positive, then the doctor may check if the baby has also got the infection. This is usually done by performing an ultrasound to check for any CMV related abnormalities and can be followed by carrying out an amniocentesis. In cases of congenital CMV, the doctor must test the baby at birth or within first two weeks preferably to ensure that it is congenital CMV.
Risks of Cytomegalovirus
The infection due to CMV is usually mild and does not show any specific symptoms. Unless the person’s immune system gets compromised, the infection does not pose any major health threats. Even with congenital CMV, the majority of babies (about 80%) do not show any signs and also do not develop any complications in future. However, in the rest 20% severe problems may be seen such as:
- Premature birth
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Lower birth weight
- Smaller head
- Inflamed lymph nodes
Even though the baby does not show any symptoms at birth, he may develop some of the following conditions later in life:
- Vision loss
- Hearing loss
- Learning disabilities
- Impaired neural development
- Lack of coordination
- Muscle weakness
Effects of CMV on Mother and Unborn Baby
Most pregnant women would already have antibodies against CMV since they would have encountered the virus before in life. Hence the mother does not face any serious threats from the viral infection. However, for the baby, the infection can be dangerous if transmitted.
How Is the Virus Transmitted from Mom to Unborn?
CMV exposure in pregnancy can go undetected to get transmitted to the foetus during pregnancy or at delivery. This transmission is possible through the placenta depends on the stage of pregnancy when the mother got the infection. If the mother encounters the virus after her first trimester, the chances of the baby being born which congenital CMV are less, but if the mother gets CMV early pregnancy, the chances are higher of the baby being born with the infection. Out of these also, the majority do not display any symptoms at birth or even during later stages of life.
Treatment is not required in adults since the immune system of the body is sufficient to fight the infection, but in some cases, the doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs.
How to Prevent CMV Infection?
There are simple ways to protect yourself from the infection. Maintaining a hygienic lifestyle, cleaning toys or surfaces which come in contact with saliva or urine, etc. can go a long way in preventing the virus from entering your body. Children that show symptoms of infection should not mingle with other kids till they recover.
What If Your Baby Born With Infection?
In babies with congenital CMV, it is essential to undergo proper medication with antiviral drugs as prescribed by the doctor to fight infection. It is recommended to get regular check-ups done to see any degradation in vision or hearing.
While the virus has little or no effect on adults, it can have a debilitating impact on those children who contract the virus by possible impaired hearing. As the symptoms of the virus can be confused with the common cold, it is advisable for pregnant women to get a CMV igg test done.
Also Read: Fever during Pregnancy