Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a common virus that is a member of the herpes family. Most individuals will become infected at some time during their life, but the infection does not usually present a complication. However, the infection can present complications to a developing fetus if acquired during pregnancy. Cytomegalovius is the most common cause of serious congenital birth defects.
Although CMV is not a highly communicable infection, it can be transmitted from one individual to another via bodily fluids, such as urine, saliva, semen, tears, breast milk and vaginal secretions. The infection is also easily transmitted to a fetus or newborn infant from its mother during pregnancy and/or childbirth. CMV can be contracted through a blood transfusion or organ transplant.
CMV can be serious for a newborn infant or developing fetus. It is estimated that 10 out of every 1,000 babies will be affected by the condition. Severity of the infection can range from no symptoms to severe nervous system damage and developmental abnormalities.
Most adults, children and infants that acquire the CMV infection do not have any symptoms. However, some individuals will present with symptoms that include fever, headache, sore throat, swollen glands and a general lethargic feeling. It is especially important that women avoid the infection during pregnancy. If CMV is diagnosed during pregnancy, an amniocentesis may be performed to check for fetal infections. Fetal infection may be indicated by low levels of amniotic fluid, intrauterine growth restriction and tissue enlargement within the brain. Research has shown that the most severe handicaps result from infection that is acquired during the 4th to 22nd week of pregnancy. If CMV is acquired during prenatal development, the baby may suffer from hearing loss, vision loss, mental retardation and liver/spleen enlargement. Other congenital symptoms of cytomegalovius include a small head, growth retardation, fluid collection around the lungs and heart and anemia.
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