Cytomegalovirus (CMV) - Symptoms 

Symptoms of cytomegalovirus (CMV) 

The symptoms of cytomegalovirus (CMV) depend on the type of infection you have.

The main types of infection are:

  • primary CMV – where someone develops a CMV infection for the first time
  • CMV re-infection – an infection with a different strain of the virus from the primary infection
  • recurring CMV – a previously inactive CMV infection in the body is reactivated
  • congenital CMV – a CMV infection that develops when a woman is pregnant and infects the unborn baby 

Primary CMV

Most cases of primary CMV cause no symptoms. You may not even realise you have the infection.

If you do experience symptoms, they will be similar to flu symptoms or symptoms of glandular fever and can include:

  • a high temperature of 38oC (100.4oF) or above
  • extreme tiredness
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands
  • muscle and joint pain
  • loss of appetite

These symptoms should only last for a couple of weeks.

CMV re-infection

If you are re-infected with a different strain of the CMV virus, you may not have any symptoms, or you may have flu-like symptoms similar to a primary CMV infection.

Recurring CMV

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

A CMV infection that recurs in someone with a weakened immune system can cause a wide range of symptoms. This is because the virus can quickly spread throughout the body, damaging one or more of your organs – particularly the digestive system, lungs and eyes.

Symptoms of recurring CMV include:

  • a high temperature of 38oC (100.4oF) or above
  • diarrhoea 
  • shortness of breath
  • visual disturbances – such as blind spots, blurring and floaters (a black spot or "web" that appears to be floating in your field of vision)
  • pneumonia – inflammation (swelling) of the tissue in your lungs
  • retinitis – inflammation of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of your eyes
  • hepatitis – inflammation of the liver

If you have a weakened immune system and have one or more of the symptoms above, contact your GP or treatment team immediately.

Congenital CMV

Around 9 out of 10 babies born with congenital CMV experience no symptoms at birth. This is known as an asymptomatic congenital CMV infection.

Hearing loss

A small number of babies born with asymptomatic congenital CMV may later develop some degree of hearing impairment during their first few years of life. This is usually permanent and can range from mild to total.

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

Symptoms at birth

One in 10 babies born with congenital CMV have symptoms at birth, including:

  • jaundice – yellow-coloured skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes
  • pneumonia
  • a rash of small, purplish spots
  • an enlarged liver and spleen
  • low birth weight
  • seizures (fits)

While some of these symptoms can be treated, some babies will develop long-term conditions as a result of the infection. Up to nine out of 10 babies who have symptoms at birth will develop one or more physical or mental disabilities. These include:

  • hearing loss
  • visual impairment or blindness
  • learning difficulties
  • dyspraxia (lack of physical co-ordination)
  • epilepsy – a condition that affects the brain and causes repeated seizures

Page last reviewed: 07/11/2012

Next review due: 07/11/2014

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