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Helping Children with Congenital CMV

Family of four on front porch of home

Some children with congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection may have hearing or vision loss, or other health problems. Parents can help children with congenital CMV develop to their full potential by having specific health checks and treatments.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that infects people of all ages. Most people infected with CMV show no signs or symptoms. If a pregnant woman is infected with CMV, she can pass it to her developing baby. This is called congenital CMV. About one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV infection. Most babies with congenital CMV will not have signs or symptoms. However, about one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will have symptoms or long-term health problems such as hearing loss, vision loss, intellectual disability, small head size, lack of coordination, weakness or problems using muscles and seizures.

Early Treatment May Help

Babies who show signs of congenital CMV disease at birth may be treated with medicines, called antivirals. Antivirals decrease the risk of health problems and hearing loss. Babies who get treated with antivirals should be closely watched by their doctor because of possible side effects. There is little information available on antiviral treatment for babies without signs of congenital CMV disease, or who only have hearing loss.

How CMV Spreads

People with CMV may shed (pass) the virus in their body fluids, such as saliva, urine, blood, tears, semen, and breast milk. CMV is spread in the following ways:

  • From direct contact with saliva or urine, especially from babies and young children
  • Through sexual contact
  • From breast milk
  • Through transplanted organs and blood transfusions

A woman who is infected with CMV can pass the virus to her developing baby during pregnancy. Women may be able to lessen their risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children. Some ways do this are: kissing children on the cheek or head rather than the lips, and washing hands after changing diapers. These cannot eliminate your risk of getting CMV, but may lessen your chances of getting it.

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

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 congenital 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 develop to their full potential by

  • Having your child’s hearing checked regularly. Hearing loss can affect your child’s ability to develop communication, language, and social skills.
  • Bringing your child to services such as speech, occupational, and physical therapy.

The earlier you can access these services, the more your child can benefit from them.

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. Some signs that a baby might have congenital CMV infection when they are born are:

  • Premature birth
  • Liver, lung and spleen problems
  • Small size at birth
  • Small head size
  • Seizures

Blood, urine or saliva tests done within two to three weeks after birth can confirm a diagnosis of congenital CMV.

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