CytomegalovirusCytomegalovirus: or CMV, is found universally throughout all geographic locations and socioeconomic groups, and infects between 50% and 85% of adults in the United States by 40 years of age. CMV is also the virus most frequently transmitted to a developing child before birth. CMV infection is more widespread in developing countries and in areas of lower socioeconomic conditions. For most healthy persons who acquire CMV after birth there are few symptoms and no long-term health consequences. Some persons with symptoms experience infectious mononucleosis, with prolonged fever, and a mild hepatitis. Once a person becomes infected, the virus remains alive, but usually dormant within that person's body for life. Recurrent disease rarely occurs unless the person's immune system is suppressed due to therapeutic drugs or disease. Therefore, for the vast majority of people, CMV infection is not a serious problem. However, CMV infection is important to certain high-risk groups. Major areas of concern are (1) the risk of infection to the unborn baby during pregnancy, (2) the risk of infection to people who work with children, and (3) the risk of infection to the immunocompromised person, such as organ transplant recipients and persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
CMV is a member of the herpesvirus group, which includes herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, varicella-zoster virus (which causes chickenpox and shingles), and Epstein-Barr virus (which, together with CMV, is the main cause for infectious mononucleosis). These viruses share a characteristic ability to remain dormant within the body over a long period. Initial CMV infection, which may have few symptoms, is always followed by a prolonged, inapparent infection during which the virus resides in cells without causing detectable damage or clinical illness. Severe impairment of the body's immune system by medication or disease consistently reactivates the virus from the latent or dormant state.
Infectious CMV may be shed in the bodily fluids of any previously infected person, and thus may be found in urine, saliva, blood, tears, semen, and breast milk. The shedding of virus may take place intermittently, without any detectable signs, and without causing symptoms.
An authoritative reference on Cytomegalovirus is provided by the new book Cytomegalovirus.
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