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Help Children with Congenital CMV Live Healthy

Family of four on front porch of homeSome children with congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection may have hearing or vision loss, or other health problems. Parents can help children with congenital CMV have healthy, full lives by having specific health checks and treatments.

CMV is a virus that pregnant women can be infected with and pass to their unborn babies. This is called congenital CMV. About 1 in 150 children is born with congenital CMV infection. Most babies who get congenital CMV will not have signs or symptoms. However, about 20 out of 100 babies born with CMV infection will have symptoms or long-term health issues. These can include developmental disabilities, hearing and vision loss, problems with the liver, spleen or lungs, and seizures.

Early Treatment May Help

Babies who have symptoms from CMV when they are born have had moderate benefits for long-term hearing and brain development when they get antiviral medicine beginning in the first month of their lives. But this medicine has side effects, and babies who get it should be closely monitored by their doctor. Antiviral medicine has not been studied in babies with congenital CMV who do not show any symptoms, or only have hearing loss as a symptom.

How CMV Spreads

CMV is passed from infected people to others through direct contact with body fluids such as blood, urine, saliva, blood, breast milk, or semen. Common ways people become infected with CMV differ by age group:

  • Infants usually get infection from breast milk
  • Children typically get infection through contact with other children
  • Teenagers or adults mostly get infection through contact with saliva or urine of young children or through sexual contact.

Pregnant women can pass CMV to their unborn baby if they were infected before or during pregnancy. It is not known what factors lead to a woman with CMV giving birth to a baby with congenital CMV.

To learn more about congenital CMV infection, visit CDC's CMV and Congenital CMV Infection website

Access to speech, occupational, and physical therapy can help your child with CMV infection.

Get Hearing Checks and Therapies

Symptoms of congenital CMV infection will be different for each child. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Parents can help children with congenital CMV infection live a healthy, full life by

  • Having your child's hearing checked regularly.
    • Hearing loss can affect your child's ability to develop communication, language, and social skills. The earlier your child's hearing loss is diagnosed, the sooner you can get them the services they need.
  • Bringing your child to services such as speech, occupational, and physical therapy.
    • Access to these services early in life will often help children with congenital CMV infection to develop to their full potential.

Signs of Congenital CMV

Babies may be diagnosed with congenital CMV while they are still in their mother's womb, or after they are born. Signs that a baby might have congenital CMV infection when they are born are:

  • jaundice (yellowish coloring of the skin)
  • enlarged liver
  • enlarged spleen
  • petechiae (skin rash resulting from bleeding in the skin)
  • pneumonia
  • central nervous system damage with small head size, brain abnormalities, eye problems or hearing loss

Blood, urine or saliva tests are done to confirm a diagnosis of congenital CMV. Some babies with congenital CMV infection are identified after they are diagnosed with hearing loss.

Talk with your doctor if you suspect your child might have congenital CMV infection.

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