What Is Cytomegalovirus?
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus which infects humans and animals. CMV mainly affects the central nervous system (CNS). Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat and vomiting. Other symptoms may include rash, bleeding gums or eyes, difficulty breathing or swallowing blood.
How Can I Get CMV?
The main way of getting CMV is through contact with infected body fluids such as saliva, urine, sweat or tears. You can get infected from a person who is excreting the virus (active CMV). You can also get infected if someone with the virus coughs or sneezes on you and you then touch your eyes or mouth (respiratory secretions).
You also can become infected from a pregnant woman to her baby (congenital CMV). This may result in hearing loss, vision problems, mental disability, or heart disease. A person with a healthy immune system will usually fight off infection and experience no symptoms.
Some people (like newborns) are at greater risk for severe symptoms from the virus. If you do get symptoms, you may pass it to another person before you know you have CMV.
What Are the Symptoms of Cytomegalovirus?
Virus symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands, extreme tiredness, vomiting or diarrhea. More severe symptoms may include seizures, mental confusion, hearing loss, vision problems or trouble breathing. Some people may have no symptoms at all.
How Is Cytomegalovirus Diagnosed?
A blood test can detect antibodies for this virus. It can help to confirm a diagnosis of congenital cytomegalovirus.
How Is Cytomegalovirus Treated?
There is no specific treatment for the virus itself. Most people get better on their own, usually within several weeks. A few may require treatment for symptoms such as severe diarrhea.
How Can I Prevent Getting CMV?
Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly can help prevent getting infected. You can also avoid close contact with people who are sick.
If you are pregnant and have never had a cytomegalovirus infection or have not been immunized against this virus, you should get the vaccine once during your first trimester and again in your third trimester. The vaccine is given in a series of two shots, four to six weeks apart.
If your baby is born prematurely, the doctor may suggest that you have the shot.
What Is the Cytomegalovirus Vaccine?
The vaccine uses portions of the virus to help your body create protective antibodies against it. This vaccine is not given to anyone with a weak immune system because it could make them very sick.
The vaccine is not 100 percent effective, so it is still important to practice good hygiene.
Is the Cytomegalovirus Vaccine Safe?
Most people have no problems with it. The vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their babies.
If you have seizures or another chronic condition, talk to your doctor before getting this vaccine.
What Are the Possible Side Effects?
The most common side effects are pain in the injection area and a temporary fever.
Can I Still Get CMV If I Get the Vaccine?
You may develop antibodies but not get sick. The vaccine does not prevent congenital infection. Pregnant women should still avoid anyone with a cytomegalovirus infection.
What If I Already Had the Virus?
Once you have had cytomegalovirus, you will have antibodies for life. You do not need to get the vaccine.
How Do I Prevent the Congenital Form?
If you have a cytomegalovirus infection during pregnancy, your baby may be born with congenital cytomegalovirus. Check with your doctor to make sure you are not infected.
Make sure anyone who will be handling your newborn, like a doctor or nurse, is also vaccinated.
While the risk is small, it is possible for you to pass the virus to your baby. If you feel like you are getting sick, avoid contact with your baby and see your doctor right away.
In the hospital, your newborn will be tested for cytomegalovirus infection before leaving the facility. If the test is positive, your baby may need to stay for a little longer so doctors can make sure she is well and gives her medication to help her fight the infection.
How Can I Find Help Paying for the Vaccine?
The vaccine may be covered by your insurance. You can also check GoodRx to find the cost of the vaccine at local pharmacies.
Before you pay cash for the vaccine, check to see if you qualify for financial assistance.
The Vaccinate Your Family program may be able to help you find free or low-cost vaccines.
The Vaccinate Your Family program helps families who are under or without insurance get the vaccines they need for $12.99 or less.
The FamilyWize program can help you locate out-of-pocket costs and providers in your area.
Call your insurance company to see if the vaccine is covered. You can also search the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services site to find vaccines that are covered by your specific plan.
The Cytomegalovirus vaccine is available in a few different forms, so check with your provider before your appointment to see which one is right for you.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Cytomegalovirus (PD Griffiths, RJ Whitley – Practical Guidelines in Antiviral Therapy, 2002 – Elsevier)
- Epidemiology of cytomegalovirus infections (M Ho – Reviews of infectious diseases, 1990 – academic.oup.com)
- Cytomegalovirus: biology and infection (M Ho – 2013 – books.google.com)
- Cytomegalovirus resistance to ganciclovir and clinical outcomes of patients with cytomegalovirus retinitis (DA Jabs, BK Martin, MS Forman, L Hubbard… – American journal of …, 2003 – Elsevier)
- Cytomegalovirus immune globulin and seronegative blood products to prevent primary cytomegalovirus infection after marrow transplantation (RA Bowden, M Sayers, N Flournoy… – … England Journal of …, 1986 – Mass Medical Soc)