Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that infects most people at some point during their lives. It is a member of the herpes virus family. Similar to other herpes viruses, cytomegalovirus can become dormant and reactivate at some point. Anyone can become infected with cytomegalovirus.
Although the virus is not highly contagious, it can be spread from person to person by direct contact. The virus is in urine, saliva, semen and other body fluids. Transmission can also occur from an infected mother to her fetus or newborn.
Most children and adults who are infected do not develop symptoms. Those who have symptoms may experience an illness resembling infectious mononucleosis and have fever, swollen glands or feel tired. People with a compromised immune system may experience more serious illness. This includes fever and pneumonia.
Once infected, the disease remains in the body indefinitely. The virus rapidly dies once outside the body.
Good hygiene and careful handwashing are the best way to avoid cytomegalovirus. This is particularly important when handling diapers or having contact with the child's urine or saliva.
There may be a greater risk of infection in day care centers. Child care workers who are pregnant should minimize direct exposure to saliva. Plastic disposable gloves should be worn when handling linen or underclothes soiled with feces or urine.
In most cases, there is no treatment. An effective vaccine has not yet been developed.