Whether you're pregnant, around children, or have simply been in contact with another human being — so yes, basically everyone — there's a chance you've been exposed to CMV and don't even know it. But what is it and just how common is CMV? Although it affects more people than you'd expect, it's not always as dangerous as the mysterious name suggests.
CMV stands for cytomegalovirus and, according to Mayo Clinic, it's a relatively common virus that can affect just about anyone, but unless you have a weakened immune system, you're unlikely to experience symptoms. The American Pregnancy Association estimated that by age 40, more than half of all adults have been infected with the virus, which is a member of the herpes virus group.
If you're healthy, the virus generally remains dormant. But the Mayo Clinic noted that pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, or children are more likely to experience symptoms from the virus. The most common symptoms of CMV are mild and include fever, pneumonia, diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle aches, but can be more severe in some cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus, though not highly contagious, passes through close contact, like saliva, sexual contact, breast milk, or blood transfusions. Furthermore, pregnant women can pass the virus on to their baby in-utero — known as congenital CMV. Babies born with congenital CMV have a variety of outcomes, ranging from asymtomatic to very serious, according to the National CMV Foundation. The foundation recommended that every pregnant woman get tested to take necessary precautions.
Although the thought of contracting the virus or passing it on to your child sounds frightening, unless you're experiencing mononucleosis-like symptoms (fatigue, fever, chills, muscle ache, etc.) and are otherwise healthy, the virus should remain dormant and not affect you at all. Taking precautions like washing your hands, and not allowing your child to share straws, cups, pacifiers, or other items, can prevent the spread of the virus.
Should you notice symptoms in yourself, your child, or family member, there are treatment options available. Speaking to your healthcare provider will allow them to run blood tests to ensure a positive diagnosis, and discuss treatment options further.