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A to Z: Cytomegalovirus

May also be called: CMV

Cytomegalovirus (sy-tuh-meg-uh-lo-VY-rus), or CMV, is a very common virus. CMV infections in healthy people are usually harmless.

More to Know

Cytomegalovirus, a member of the herpesvirus family, is related to the viruses that cause chickenpox and mononucleosis (“mono”), and is a common cause of viral infection.

CMV infections are rarely serious in otherwise healthy kids and adults; they usually cause only mild symptoms, if any. However, CMV can be a problem for unborn babies whose mothers become infected with CMV during pregnancy (in utero), and children and adults whose immune systems have been weakened by disease or drug treatment.

Infants infected with CMV in utero may develop hearing, vision, neurological, and developmental problems over time. Older kids and teens who become infected may have mono-like symptoms, including fatigue, muscle aches, headache, fever, and enlarged liver and spleen. These symptoms are generally mild and usually last only 2 to 3 weeks.

Most cases of CMV infection don’t require any specific treatment, but high-risk cases may be treated with intravenous (IV) antiviral medication, usually in a hospital.

Keep in Mind

Most of the time, healthy kids and adults infected with CMV will have no symptoms and probably won’t even know they’ve been infected. Those who have mild symptoms usually recover completely within a few weeks, although the virus may stay inactive in a person’s body for life. CMV is spread through close contact with body fluids, so frequent hand washing and good hygiene are effective at reducing the risk of infection.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.