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Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) at a Glance

  • CMV stands for cytomegalovirus
  • Often has no symptoms
  • No cure, but treatment is available for the symptoms
  • Can be spread during sex play
  • Condoms reduce your risk of infection

We all want to protect ourselves and each other from infections like cytomegalovirus (CMV). Learning more about CMV is an important first step.

Here are some of the most common questions we hear people ask about CMV. We hope you find the answers helpful, whether you think you may have CMV, have been diagnosed with it, or are just curious about it.

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    What Is CMV?

    You may have heard of cytomegalovirus or CMV, but many people are not sure what it is. Cytomegalovirus (sigh-tow-MEG-a-low-VI-rus) is a virus that is transmitted through many bodily fluids. It is usually spread during casual contact, and it can also be transmitted during sex.

    CMV is quite common. About 4 out of every 10 Americans get CMV by the time they reach puberty, mainly through contact with other children's saliva. Adults, however, usually become reinfected through sexual activity.

    Like many other viruses, CMV remains in the body for life.

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    What Are the Symptoms of CMV?

    There are usually no symptoms with the first infection with cytomegalovirus. Rarely, reinfection with CMV, or having a weakened immune system, may reactivate the virus and cause symptoms to appear.

    When symptoms do appear, they may include

    • swollen glands, fatigue, fever, and general weakness
    • irritations of the digestive tract, nausea, diarrhea
    • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

    CMV can be very dangerous for people with weakened immune systems. In addition to the symptoms listed above, it can cause blindness and mental disorders.

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    How Can I Know If I Have CMV?

    Your health care provider can do a blood test to see if you have cytomegalovirus (CMV).

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    Is There a Treatment for CMV?

    There is no cure. But when symptoms of cytomegalovirus (CMV) are present, they may be managed with medicine.

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    Where Can I Get a Test or Treatment for CMV?

    Staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center, many other clinics, health departments, and private health care providers can diagnose cytomegalovirus (CMV) and help you get any treatment you may need.

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    How Is CMV Spread?

    Cytomegalovirus (CMV) can be in saliva, semen, blood, cervical and vaginal secretions, urine, and breast milk. It can be spread through

    • close personal contact
    • vaginal and anal intercourse
    • oral sex
    • blood transfusion and sharing IV drug equipment
    • pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding

    CMV and Pregnancy

    CMV is the most common infection in the United States that is spread from a woman to her developing fetus. CMV can be passed during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. The risk of infection is greatest when a woman gets CMV for the first time during pregnancy.

    About 1 out of every 100 babies born in the United States has CMV. Most babies born with CMV have no problems from the virus. But about 1-2 out every 10 of them develop serious health problems. These problems can include hearing or vision loss, developmental and learning disabilities, and liver problems. In rare cases the problems can be fatal.

    If you have CMV, talk with your health care provider if you are planning to get pregnant or are already pregnant.

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    How Can I Prevent Getting or Spreading CMV?

    There are several ways to help prevent getting cytomegalovirus (CMV) or spreading it to other people.

    • You can abstain from vaginal and anal intercourse and oral sex.
    • If you choose to have vaginal or anal intercourse or oral sex, use female or latex condoms every time. Condoms and other barriers may reduce the risk of CMV, but kissing and other intimate touching can spread the virus.
    • Careful hand washing can reduce the risk of infection from casual contact.

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