Sunday, 12 January 2014 08:02

Cytomegalovirus: What Parents Need To Know

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Cytomegalovirus (CMV)





What is Cytomegalovirus?


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common type of herpesvirus. In Australia, about 50% of young adults have been infected. Cytomegalovirus belongs to the Betaherpesvirinae subfamily, which also includes the genera Muromegalovirus and Roseolovirus (Koichi et al, 2007).


Once a person is infected from CMV, they can carry the virus for the rest of their lives, even if they don’t have the symptoms (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2012). Offermanns and Rosehtal (2008) note that sometimes the virus can be reactivated, usually when the person has another illness or is stressed, and may then cause symptoms.


Healthy children and adults don’t usually develop symptoms when they are infected, but some may show symptoms that are similar to glandular fever (e.g. tiredness, sore throat, swollen glands and fever). In certain people, such as transplant patients and pregnant women, the effects can be much more serious (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2012).


Infection of a baby before birth can cause serious birth defects. This risk is higher during the first half of pregnancy (Koichi et al, 2007). Cytomegalovirus infection occurs in 1% or less of pregnancies and, of these cases, less than 10% of infants are likely to have severe illness.


How does Cytomegalovirus spread?


Humans are the only source of CMV. This virus is found in urine, saliva, breast milk, vaginal secretions and semen. People can shed the virus in body fluids for moths too years after first being infected, without having any detectable symptoms (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2012).


Incubation Period


The incubation period is uncertain, but most likely 3-12 weeks (Pass et al, 2009).


Infectious Period


People with CMV can be infectious for months too years after their initial infection, because they can keep shedding the virus in their urine or saliva (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2012).




With Cytomegalovirus usually no treatment is required. It should be noted that a vaccine against cytomegalovirus (CMV) is currently under investigation. Development of such a vaccine has been emphasized as a priority by the National Vaccine Program Office in the United States (Pass et al, 2009).






Koichi Y. and Arvin, A. M. and Gabriella, C-F and Edward, M. and Moore, P and Roizman, B. and; Whitley, R. (2007). Human herpesviruses: biology, therapy, and immunoprophylaxis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press


National Health and Medical Research Council (2012). Staying Healthy: Preventing diseases in early childhood education and care services 5th Edn. NHMRC, Canberra.


Offermanns S. and Rosenthal, W. (2008). Encyclopedia of Molecular Pharmacology (2nd ed.). Springer. pp. 437–438


Pass, R.F. and Zhang C, and Evans A, et al (2009). Vaccine prevention of maternal cytomegalovirus infection. New England Journal of Medicine 360 (12): 1191–9.

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