Cmv Causes And Symptoms: What Is A Cytomegalovirus?

A cytomegalovirus infection is generally asymptomatic, but lasts for the full term of one's life. Symptoms may be serious in individuals with compromised immune systems.

The term "cytomegalovirus" (CMV) actually refers to a number of viral infections which are immensely common and which, in healthy individuals, usually cause no symptoms at all. However, individuals who are immunodeficient (have a weakened immune system) for whatever reason, such as organ transplant therapy or HIV infection, can experience potentially serious symptoms.

The body actually plays host to any number of viruses and bacteria that have almost no effect on the body for the average individual with a healthy immune system, and CMV viruses are no exception. Infection prevention would practically require total seclusion from the outside world (and indeed from parents, for children), and the mild (if ever at all apparent) symptoms of CMV infection are not worthy of daily concern.

Cytomegaloviruses are actually members of the herpes virus classification, which despite its notorious title is a rather broad classification to which many viruses belong. As with its more infamous family members, once exposed to a CMV virus the host is usually infected for life. During most of this time, the virus will lie dormant, often for many years at a time, only to recur unexpectedly. This is, of course, mostly irrelevant to those who show no symptoms. Some portion of those who are not immunodeficient, however, will have symptoms that resemble those of mononucleosis, including potentially severe fatigue as the body strains to fight off the infection. The duration will not usually be as extensive as that of mono infection, however, and the symptoms should be treated much as would a normal cold or flu. They will disappear in time. Symptoms similar to mononucleosis appear most frequently in teens, even healthy teens, and tend to occur a few weeks after contraction.

Methods of contraction vary, but despite a high rate of general infection in the population only about one percent of newborns contract it prenatally, or in the womb. Exposure to other children essentially guarantees a risk of infection, and it is estimated that more than two thirds of children are infected by the virus before the age of three if they attend a day care or preschool program. As its frequency indicates, this should not be a cause for concern.

Organ transplant patients have a special concern for CMV, as the immunodeficiency brought on by the drugs that prevent organ rejection can make an individual susceptible, while the new organ may in fact be infected with the virus. This can be something of a shock to a body not yet accustomed to fighting the infection, especially while it is at its least able to do so. In cases of organ transplant or AIDS, especially in children, CMV infection can be life-threatening, and should be treated by professionals.

Contagion occurs through bodily fluids and is not transmittable in aerosol (airborne) form. However, as is the nature of children, close contact with saliva and other fluids will likely occur at some point or another, so an eventual infection is all but inevitable. Anyone who is infected may pass the disease on at virtually any time, whether the disease exhibits symptoms or not. Infection also frequently occurs through intermediate objects, such as children's toys, as well as through organ transplants and blood transfusions.

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