Cytomegalovirus

Microscopic specimen of Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Image by Yale Rosen (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is an extremely common viral infection affecting between 10% and 25% of the entire population at any one time. Infection rate may be in excess of 80% in homosexual men. It may be a serious illness in patients who have reduced immunity due to treatment with cytotoxic drugs for cancer, have suffered other serious illnesses, are anaemic, suffering from AIDS or other immune affecting diseases, or who are extremely run-down from stress or overwork.

The virus passes from one person to another in saliva or as droplets in the breath, but may also spread through blood transfusions or sexual contact. In all but a tiny percentage of infected people, there are absolutely no symptoms, and they appear and feel totally well. Adults with reduced immunity develop a fever, headaches, overwhelming tiredness, muscle and joint pains, enlarged lymph nodes and a tender liver. In patients with severely reduced immunity, pneumonia and hepatitis may develop.

If a pregnant woman with reduced immunity acquires a significant CMV infection, her baby may be affected in the womb and be born with liver damage (jaundice), enlarged liver and spleen, poor ability to clot blood, bruises, intellectual disability, and one in six are deaf.

(Last modified: 3rd Nov 2014)

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