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What Is Congenital CMV?

June is Congenital CMV Awareness Month, so we’re taking this opportunity to talk about CMV because not a lot of people are familiar with it. Congenital CMV is a rare viral infection that a very small number of babies are born with. 

About Congenital CMV

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that can infect people of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half of adults in the US have been infected with CMV by age 40.  Many people have had CMV without even knowing it because either their symptoms are similar to the flu or they do not have any symptoms at all.

CMV is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids like saliva and urine, especially from young children. It may also be spread through sexual contact and from breast milk to nursing infants. People who spend time around children either at work or at home are more likely to get CMV than adults that don’t spend time with kids. 

Congenital cytomegalovirus occurs when a pregnant woman passes CMV on to her fetus when she is infected during pregnancy. Transmission is a much bigger risk if it is a primary infection, meaning it is the first time the woman has gotten CMV or if she has been reinfected with a different strain of CMV. If a woman was infected with CMV prior to pregnancy, the risk of transmission is much lower. There is a small chance that congenital CMV can cause long-term health issues like hearing loss, vision loss, seizures, or problems with coordination.

As you continue to read this information, don’t get stressed out or worry too much. The chances of a baby being born with a CMV infection are low. Even then, only a small number of babies born with a CMV infection have lasting health problems. Congenital CMV Awareness Month’s purpose is to inform and raise awareness so that women can take steps to make their chances of infection even lower. If you have more questions about CMV, then check these resources from the CDC or talk to your doctor.

Symptoms of CMV

When an adult or child contracts CMV after they are born, they may not have symptoms. If they do, they are usually mild and include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • fatigue 
  • Swollen glands

Babies born with congenital CMV don’t always have symptoms either. In fact, most babies born with CMV don’t ever have any related health problems. In the small number that do have symptoms, they might include:

  • Rash
  • jaundice 
  • Seizures
  • Low birth weight
  • Pneumonia 

Treatment for Congenital CMV

If a child is born with congenital CMV, there are treatments available. If CMV is diagnosed and treated early, the child may not have any long-term health problems. The most common treatment for babies diagnosed with congenital cytomegalovirus is an intravenous antiviral medication like valganciclovir. The medication is given over the course of a few weeks and can improve hearing and developmental outcomes.

CMV Prevention

While there are promising treatments for congenital CMV, prevention is the best way to protect yourself and your child. CMV is a common infection in people of all ages. So you can’t help if you’ve already been infected with CMV. You can ask your doctor if they think you would benefit from being tested for CMV.

 As we’ve mentioned before, congenital CMV is a bigger risk when a woman contracts the infection while pregnant. The best way to protect your baby from CMV is to try and prevent infection during pregnancy. Doctors and research scientists are currently in the trial period for a CMV vaccine, but until that is completed and approved, there are a few things you can to do prevent getting infected with CMV while you’re pregnant:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly often with soap and water (note: you should already be vigilant about this right now anyway)
  • Don’t share food and drink with other people during pregnancy
  • Stay away from sick people, especially if they have flu-like symptoms that may be signs of CMV infection.
  • Avoid places where CMV is commonly spread when possible

At Green Valley OB/GYN, we have been providing quality obstetric and gynecological care to the women of the NC Triad for over 70 years. We offer a comprehensive list of services and procedures for women in all stages of life. If you have concerns about treating allergies during pregnancy, call us at (336) 378-1110 to schedule an appointment.

If you have an upcoming appointment, out of concern for our patients, staff, and the local community, we ask that you please call our office to reschedule your appointment if you have or if you have been in contact with someone that has had a fever, cough, shortness of breath, Cold, Flu-like symptoms or has traveled within the past 14 days. We also request only One Adult accompany the patient to their appointments, if necessary (children should not attend). We appreciate your help in our efforts to prevent the spread of illness.