Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

What’s the Story on CMV?

As it turns out, there are lots of stories on cytomegalovirus (CMV)—so many "if this" and "what if" possibilities, they make our Keep It Simple principle a tough one to follow.

We're not going to discuss how CMV affects immunocompromised folks, including HIV+ kids and those preparing for organ transplantation. That is an important topic on its own.

What Is It?

It's a virus from the herpes family which is common around the world. Most of us will become infected at some point, we won't have much in the way of symptoms, we'll develop antibodies and go on with our lives. The virus won't go away, but it will become latent—go to sleep and not bother anything.

Who Gets It?

A woman can pass it to her unborn child during pregnancy, this is called congenital infection; a baby can get it during birth or shortly thereafter, this is called perinatal infection; any person, at any age, can become infected with this virus, it's then called an acquired infection.

How Is It Transmitted?

CMV passes from one person to the next through an exchange of almost any body fluid you can think of: urine, saliva, blood, tears, breast milk, semen, feces and/or cervical secretions.

Body fluids can be exchanged by activities such as kissing, babies mouthing toys then swapping said toys, changing a diaper and rubbing your eye or touching your mouth before washing your hands, drinking from the same glass or sharing utensils, or sexual intercourse. It can also be passed through transplants or transfusions.

You don't get infected by just being in the same room with someone unless those pesky fluids are exchanged.

What Can It Do?

In the U.S., about 40,000 babies (one percent of the birth population) are born each year congenitally infected. Ten percent of them will be symptomatic, and it's this 10 percent who will have the hardest time with this disease.

Problems such as blindness, seizures, physical and developmental delays or differences, and most frequently, deafness, can affect the baby. About 10 percent of the group not born symptomatic will develop some degree of hearing loss and have a very slight chance of developing other problems.


There's no vaccine at this time. CMV is worldwide. Fifty to 80 percent of the U.S. population will be infected by the time they reach 40. The best way to protect yourself is to practice standard precautions—assume everyone's blood and body fluids are infected with something and act accordingly.

If you're pregnant or considering it, you might want to get tested. If you've already been infected with CMV and it's dormant (asleep), that's safer for your unborn child than if you become infected for the first time while pregnant; although it's possible to become infected with more than one strain or to reactivate your sleeping infection, and this could affect the baby. You want to avoid all infections while pregnant, so just use a little more caution.

Don't share forks or cups or kisses with kids under six, wear gloves when dealing with diapers or cleaning up blood or other fluids, and wash your hands. That can't be emphasized enough.

Links and Resources

PKIDs' blog articles and podcasts on CMV
Childhood infections—CMV

American Association of the Deaf-Blind
American Association of the Deaf-Blind
8630 Fenton Street, Suite 121
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-3803
TTY Phone: (301) 495-4402
Voice Phone: (301) 495-4403
Fax: (301) 495-4404

DB-LINK: National Information Clearinghouse on Children Who Are Deaf-Blind
The Teaching Research Institute
345 N. Monmouth Ave.
Monmouth, OR 97361
800-438-9376 voice
800-854-7013 tty
503-838-8150 fax

The Family Village—CMV Listserv
Waisman Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1500 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53705-2280

National Congenital CMV Disease Registry
Feigin Center, Suite 1150
1102 Bates, MC 3-2371
Houston, Texas 77030-2399 USA
713-770 4387 voice
713-770 4347 fax

National Family Association for Deaf-Blind
111 Middle Neck Road
Sands Point, New York 11050
800-255-0411 ext 275 voice
516-883-9060 fax

National Information Center for Children & Youth with Disablilties
P.O. Box 1492
Washington D.C. 20013-1492
800-695-0285 voice
202-884-8441 fax



Important disclaimer: The information on is for educational purposes only and should not be considered to be medical advice. It is not meant to replace the advice of the physician who cares for your child. All medical advice and information should be considered to be incomplete without a physical exam, which is not possible without a visit to your doctor.

Information is the power
parents have over disease.