Cytomegalovirus, commonly referred to as CMV, is a member of the herpes virus family. It is common and typically harmless to the general population – between 50 and 80 percent of people in the United States have had a CMV infection before the age of 40. Once CMV is in a person’s body, it stays there for life and can reactivate.
CMV is the most common viral infection that infants are born with in the United States. Approximately 1-4 percent of uninfected women have a primary (or first) CMV infection during a pregnancy, and about 40 percent of women who become infected with CMV for the first time during pregnancy pass the virus to their babies.
Most children and adults who contract CMV will not experience any symptoms and may not even know that they have been infected. Others may develop a mild illness, or may have any of the following symptoms:
Since these are also symptoms of other illnesses, most people do not realize that they have been infected with CMV. If you have experienced any symptoms during your pregnancy similar to a seasonal illness, ask your doctor to test you for CMV infection.
If you believe that you have contracted CMV during pregnancy, regular ultrasounds and/or amniocenteses are the preferred methods to determine if CMV has been passed to the baby in utero.
CMV can present a critical problem for babies who are infected with CMV before birth, referred to as congenital CMV. Roughly 30,000 children are born with congenital CMV each year, and more than 6,000 children suffer from permanent problems.
If your baby is diagnosed with congenital CMV, be sure to have his or her hearing and vision checked regularly to identify any early onset of hearing or vision loss. Early diagnosis is critical to experiencing long-term developmental successes.
If you are concerned about potential seizure activity, record your baby's behavior and send this information to your pediatrician so he or she may help refer you to a pediatric neurologist consultation. Additional monitoring, including EEG, may be suggested to properly evaluate your child for seizures.
Additional interventions may help to improve your child's cognitive and physical abilities. In every state, there are programs available for children through the Early Intervention (EI) Program for Infants and Toddlers, as mandated in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA1). EI is a federally funded, state-run program that provides support for infants and toddlers with disabilities, or who are at risk for having significant developmental delays. "Disabilities" at this age can range from severe special needs to feeding difficulties to delays in fine motor skills, communication, or muscle developments. EI services may include speech/language therapy, special instruction, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and developmental monitoring.
Ask your child's pediatrician for a referral to your local EI program to determine whether your child should be evaluated for EI services.