Symptoms of cytomegalovirus (CMV) 

Most cases of CMV don't cause any symptoms and you may not even realise you're infected. 

If you do experience symptoms, they'll be similar to flu symptoms or symptoms of glandular fever. They can include:

  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • extreme tiredness
  • sore throat 
  • swollen glands
  • muscle and joint pain
  • loss of appetite
  • hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) 

These symptoms will usually last for a couple of weeks.

If CMV recurs in someone who's otherwise healthy, including during pregnancy, it will cause few, if any, symptoms.

Weakened immune system

Active CMV infection in someone with a weakened immune system can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • a high temperature
  • diarrhoea 
  • shortness of breath 
  • visual problems such as blind spots, blurring and floaters
  • pneumonia (inflammation of the tissue in the lungs)
  • retinitis  inflammation of the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye)
  • hepatitis  inflammation of the liver

These symptoms occur because the virus can quickly spread throughout the body, damaging one or more organs, particularly the digestive system, lungs and eyes.

Contact your GP or treatment team immediately if you have one or more of the above symptoms and your immune system is weakened by HIV or organ transplantation.

Congenital CMV

Around 13% of babies born with congenital CMV will have symptoms at birth. A similar number of babies who don't have symptoms at birth will develop problems at a later stage.

Symptoms at birth

Symptoms of congenital CMV at birth can include:

  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • pneumonia (lung infection)
  • a rash consisting of small, purplish spots
  • an enlarged liver and spleen
  • low birth weight
  • seizures (fits)
  • small head 

Some of these symptoms can be treated, but some babies will develop long-term conditions as a result of the infection.

Long-term problems

A small proportion of babies with congenital CMV (including those with no symptoms at birth) will develop one or more physical or mental problems at a later stage. These can include:

CMV infection is responsible for around 25% of cases of hearing loss during childhood.

Hearing loss caused by congenital CMV may develop during the first few years of life. This usually gets worse over time. It can also be permanent and range from mild to total.

The hearing problems can affect either one or both ears. Children with hearing loss in both ears are also likely to experience difficulties with speech and communication as they get older.


Page last reviewed: 17/11/2014

Next review due: 17/11/2016