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Effects of CMV

Oct 28, 1996

Please explain the effects of CMV infection. Specifically, how is it transmitted, who is at risk, its effect on the body and eyes, and the timing for symptoms to appear. Also, please discuss symptoms of a CMV infection. Thanks for your help.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

CMV Stands for Cytomegalovirus. It is a very common virus that is found in many persons. This infection shows no symptoms most of the time. The majority of persons who are infected don't even know they have this virus, since they are not showing symptoms. Symptoms usually begin once the person becomes immunosupressed (including immunosupression seen in AIDS).

This virus can be found in urine, saliva, breastmilk, cervical secretions and semen. It is transmitted by direct exposure to these body fluids. It could also be transmitted through organ transplantation, and from mother-to-child.

The symptoms seen with CMV in persons with AIDS usually do not begin to manifest themselves until the CD4 cell count falls below 100. Persons with HIV are especially prone to CMV symptoms when the CD4 cell count falls under 50. CMV can affect several different parts of the body.

By far, the most common site of symptomatic infection is the eyes. CMV can cause retinitis, which left untreated, can lead to blindness. It can cause an increase in floaters, and an increase in blurryness in one part of a persons visual field. Symptoms may be seen in only one eye. However, with early treatment, blindness in a person can be prevented.

On occasion, CMV can also get into the esophagus, lungs, and even the brain. When in the esophagus ("food pipe"), it can cause painful swallowing. In the lungs, it can cause pneumonia. In the brain it can cause encephalitis, which can lead to various mental status changes.

Because the symptoms of CMV can mimic that of many other infections found in persons with AIDS, laboratory diagnosis is very important. There are various treatments for CMV infection, and most are given through the intravenous route. They have many side effects, and a person may have to remain on treatment for the rest of their life.

The good news is that with early intervention, symptomatic CMV infection is treatable, but, like other viral infections, is not curable. If you have any further questions regarding CMV infection, please feel free to ask! If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS

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