What is Cytomegalovirus (HHV-5)?

It’s a Highly Prevalent Herpes Virus

For adults, it’s usually not a big deal—except for those with compromised immune systems due to HIV, immunosuppressive medications, or cancer

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Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)(HHV-5) is a herpes virus that most people acquire after birth and suffer no signs or symptoms or long-term health complications. Nearly one in three children have been infected by age 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (1) and by age 40, over 50 percent of adults have been infected.

Once you’ve been infected, CMV goes dormant in your cells without causing illness or noticeable damage. CMV is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids (e.g., urine, saliva, semen, breast milk).

CMV is the most commonly passed virus from a pregnant woman to their unborn child, but may only be spread when the mother becomes infected while pregnant. Nearly half of women have already been infected before their first pregnancy. About 40 to 60 percent of newborns who show signs of CMV infection will have long-term health issues including hearing loss, vision loss, intellectual disability, microcephaly (small head), and seizures (2). However, most children born with CMV will not show any signs and will not develop long-term problems.

What Are the Symptoms of Cytomegalovirus Infection?

Most people don’t have any symptoms. It’s possible for CMV to cause mononucleosis in adults and young adults.

However, if a pregnant woman has the following symptoms, they should be screened for CMV infection:

  • Flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue, and headache
  • Signs of hepatitis, but with negative test results for hepatitis A, B, and C
  • When ultrasound imaging suggests a fetal CMV infection

Signs of congenital CMV that appear at birth include rash, jaundice, seizures, microcephaly (small head), and seizures.

What Is the Treatment for CMV Infection?

There is no treatment for CMV in healthy individuals. People with compromised immune systems may be prescribed antiviral treatment if they’re at risk of vision-related or life-threatening illness.

If an infant is infected, antiviral medications may help avoid hearing and developmental issues. The good news is, most infants with congenital CMV grow up healthy.


  1. CMV | Clinical Features for Healthcare Professionals | Cytomegalovirus | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cmv/clinical/features.html. Accessed April 1, 2019.
  2. Clinical Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cmv/clinical/congenital-cmv.html. Accessed April 1, 2019.

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