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What is CMV?

Cytomegalovirus (sy·toe·MEG·a·low·vy·rus) or CMV, is a member of the herpes virus family. Coming into contact with the CMV virus is a common occurrence and is typically harmless to the general population. A CMV infection causes cold-like symptoms, such as a sore throat, fever, fatigue and swollen glands. These mild cytomegalovirus symptoms last for only a few short weeks and are rarely a cause for concern for healthy kids or adults.
It is important to note that the CMV virus can cause serious problems for people with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised) due to organ transplants, HIV/AIDS infection, chemotherapy, and specific medications, such as glucocorticoids, cytostatics, antibodies, and drugs acting on immunophilins.
The CMV virus can also cause severe disease in babies who were infected with CMV before birth (referred to as congenital CMV infection).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three children in the United States have had a CMV infection before five years of age. Further, more than half of adults age 40 and over have been infected with the CMV virus. CMV is extremely common.
Once the CMV virus is in a person’s body, it stays there for life. And it can reactivate.

In November 2016, CMV awareness rates for the United States in 2010 and 2015 were published in the Journal of Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (JEHDI). Highlights include:

  • CMV awareness is alarmingly low, especially compared to other congenital and childhood conditions with lower incidence rates. 91% of women do not know about it.
  • Public health policymakers and program officials should consider focusing efforts on and directing funds toward increasing CMV awareness and prevention efforts. 
  • Women have an odds of awareness of one and a half to two times greater than men.
  • Hispanics are less than half as likely to be aware of CMV than non-Hispanics.
  • The presence of a child ages 0-5 in the household does not increase the chance that an adult in the household is aware of CMV.