In the world there are millions of viruses that exist. Currently the most known to people is probably the coronavirus having quite frankly changed how the entire world operates over the last one and a half years. There are many more less known viruses and such is the cytomegalovirus. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is one of the many viruses under the Herpes virus family. It is also known as human herpes virus 5. To better understand it and how it affects children we will tackle a few frequently asked questions.
- What is congenital Cytomegalovirus?
- Congenital CMV is a condition which may occur in babies born to mothers who are infected with Cytomegalovirus. It follows the transmission of the virus from the mother to the foetus while it is still inside their mother’s womb. In other words, the baby is born already infected with the virus.
- How is the virus transmitted to pregnant women?
- There are many ways in which the mother can get infected, all of which involve body fluids. One can therefore get infected through saliva, blood, breast milk, urine or semen during sexual intercourse.
- How is it transmitted in pregnancy?
- The virus is transmitted from the mother to their child through the placenta. The placenta is an organ that connects the mother with the foetus and is used to transmit nutrients and oxygen to the foetus and remove waste products. The highest risk of infection is during the third trimester of pregnancy especially if it is the first time the mother is being affected by the virus.
- What are the symptoms of congenital cytomegalovirus?
- Not all infants infected by the virus present with symptoms. For those that do they include; Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), microcephaly (abnormally small head), low birth weight hepatosplenomegaly (enlarged spleen and liver), pneumonia and seizures.
- Are there any long-term complications?
- Among those infants that are born with symptoms some go on to have lifetime complications. Some of the possible problems include; loss of sight and hearing, microcephaly, lower than normal intellectual capacity and seizures.
- How is cytomegalovirus diagnosed?
- The DNA of cytomegalovirus is found in body fluids. A sample of either urine or saliva is therefore taken and checked for CMV DNA. To specifically diagnose congenital cytomegalovirus the test has to be carried out within three weeks of birth.
- How can CMV be managed?
- Antiviral medication such as gancyclovir or valgancyclovir are the recommended drugs. Some of the side effects of ganciclovir include bone marrow suppression which results in low blood cell counts. Infected children should get regular hearing and vision tests to ensure any problems are caught early and managed to improve outcomes.
As a pregnant mother, one can prevent getting this disease by frequent testing, engaging in protected sex if your partner has been infected before and maintaining high levels of hygiene by washing your hands regularly, especially if you come into contact with the saliva or urine of someone else. This may help to reduce the risk of infection and ensure a healthy baby and mother.