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Preventing Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection during pregnancy

Cytomegalovirus (sy toe MEG a low vy rus), or CMV is a very common virus; over half of adults by age 40 have been infected with CMV. It is a herpes virus so once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life and can reactivate. A person can also be re-infected with a different strain of the virus.

How do I contract the CMV virus?

Most healthy individuals with CMV infection have no symptoms and aren’t aware that they have been infected, but sometimes it can cause mild illness that may include fever, sore throat, fatigue or swollen glands.

  • CMV is passed through body fluids like urine, saliva, tears, mucus, semen and blood.
  • CMV is prevalent in young children and often found in toddler’s body fluids.

Why should I worry about the CMV Virus?

If a pregnant woman gets CMV, and the virus passes in utero, there can be significant problems to her fetus/baby. CMV can cause considerable birth defects, prematurity,miscarriage, stillbirths. and even death in some babies. 1 in 150 babies born in America will have CMV (this is called congenital CMV). From that 1 out of 5 children born with CMV will have permanent disabilities because of it.

  • It is the leading viral cause of developmental disabilities, and the leading cause of hearing loss in infants and children.
  • Some babies with congenital CMV will be very sick and show symptoms at birth (“symptomatic”); they may have liver, lung or spleen problems, or be of small size or have a small head (“microcephaly”). These affected children may have long-term health problems, such as hearing and/or vision loss, intellectual disability, lack of coordination, weakness or problems using muscles.
  • Other babies will not show symptoms and may be just fine or the infection gets discovered after they fail their newborn hearing screenings (Utah law requires that all infants failing their newborn hearing screening(s) be tested for congenital CMV before they are 21 days of age).
  • Women who have young children at home, or work with young children may be at higher risk of CMV during pregnancy.

How can I prevent contracting CMV?

Even though there is not yet a vaccination for CMV there are precautions that can be taken to help prevent infection, especially if you are pregnant or about to become pregnant.

  • Try not to kiss babies or small children on the lips. Forehead kisses are great!
  • Wash your hands after touching a child’s urine or saliva, or any other body fluid. You want to prevent other’s body fluids from entering into your mucus membranes (e.g. your eyes, nose, mouth).
  • Try not to share food, cups, eating utensils, or a toothbrush.
  • Don’t clean a baby’s pacifier with your own mouth.
  • Wash your hands and clean surfaces like you would if you were around someone you knew was contagious with an illness.