Cytomegalovirus: Protect Your Baby
CMV and Birth Defects
In the United States, more than 5,000 children suffer permanent disabilities caused by congenital CMV infection every year. Children impacted by congenital CMV may have:
- developmental disabilities
- hearing and/or vision loss
- small body size at birth
- problems with the liver, spleen or lungs
In rare cases, congenital CMV causes death.
While many people have never heard of it, cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a common virus that infects people of all ages. Most CMV infections are "silent," which means that the majority of people who are infected with CMV have no signs or symptoms. However, pregnant women who are infected can transmit CMV to their fetuses, causing a congenital CMV infection. A "congenital" infection is one that is transmitted from mother to baby during the pregnancy. Congenital CMV infection can cause hearing loss, seizures and developmental disabilities.
Pregnancy and CMV
For pregnant women, the most common exposures to CMV are through contact with the saliva and urine of young children or through sexual contact. Young children can transmit CMV for months after they first become infected. However, CMV does not spread easily. One in 5 parents of children who have active CMV infections become infected with CMV over the course of a year.
Congenital CMV Infection Can Be Harmful to Babies
In the United States, more than 5,000 children suffer illness and permanent disabilities caused by congenital CMV infection every year, although many infants – about 80 out of 100 – with congenital CMV infection never develop symptoms or disabilities from the infection. Children with congenital CMV infection are more likely to have permanent disabilities if they had symptoms of CMV infection at birth. However, some children with congenital CMV infection who appear healthy at birth can develop hearing or vision loss over time.
CMV Spreads through Bodily Fluids
People who are infected with CMV can transmit the virus from their body fluids, such as urine, saliva, blood, breast milk, and semen. The virus is generally passed from infected people to others through direct contact with body fluids. CMV can be sexually transmitted, or it can spread from mother to fetus through the placenta. It can also be spread through transplanted organs and blood transfusions.
Reduce Your Risk of CMV
Pregnant women can take steps to reduce their risk of exposure to CMV and so reduce the risk of CMV infection of their fetus. (See Transmission to learn about possible spread of CMV infection during pregnancy.)
Because CMV infection in healthy people is common and typically causes no symptoms, efforts to prevent transmission are not necessary for most groups of people.
To avoid exposure to children's bodily fluids that might contain CMV:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 15-20 seconds, especially after
- changing diapers
- feeding a young child
- wiping a young child's nose or drool
- handling children's toys
- Do not share food, drinks, or eating utensils used by young children
- Do not share a toothbrush with a young child
- Avoid contact with saliva when kissing a child
- Do not put a child's pacifier in your mouth
- CDC CMV website: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Congenital CMV Infection
- CDC Podcast: Staying Healthy when a Baby's on the Way (created in 2008)
- CDC Feature: Wash Your Hands
- CDC Pregnancy: Cytomegalovirus and Pregnancy
CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
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