Cytomegalovirus is a virus of the herpes family and is related to Glandular Fever, Chicken Pox and Cold Sores.
It is a common virus found in all parts of the world, and is not a serious illness in people who are usually healthy.
A virus is a microscopic organism that spreads by invading healthy cells in the body.
It manages to trick the immune system into leaving it alone because it appears the same as the host cell.
This virus is spread like most viruses, by coughing, sneezing, contact with blood or urine or through the mucous membranes. It attacks babies, children and adults, and a pregnant mother can transfer the virus to her unborn baby. About half the population of young adults will be infected.
In healthy adults, the symptoms are similar to those of the flu or glandular fever – high temperature, headache, sore throat, lethargy, general aches and pains. These symptoms often last only a few days, although you might feel lethargic for several weeks afterwards.
Cytomegalovirus can infect almost any organ, but commonly it is the blood, eye, kidneys, brain, stomach, liver, lungs or colon that are affected, but the symptoms remain the same. Many people never have any symptoms at all and remain unaware they even have the virus.
However, in some people, the virus can be more serious; pregnant women, cancer patients and organ transplant patients who contract cytomegalovirus could have more serious symptoms.
During the early stages of the pregnancy, the virus in the pregnant mother can cause brain damage in the baby. There is no such danger after the baby is born.
In transplant patients, it could easily be confused with organ rejection. The compromised immune systems of these people, and those being treated for HIV/AIDS, have a greater risk of complications and more serious symptoms if they get cytomegalovirus. The situation is similar for people receiving treatments for cancer.
Once you have contracted this virus, it is believed that you will have it always. It lies dormant in your body and it could reactivate at any time or you may never experience the symptoms again. It frequently flares up when you have some other illness.
What is the treatment?
The appropriate treatment largely depends on how severe the symptoms are. For most people, who are otherwise healthy, whether they are a baby, child or adult, treat as they would for the flu or a fever [Flu treatment].
Drink plenty of fluid, enjoy some bed rest if it is warranted and call the doctor if symptoms continue for more than a few days.
It is almost impossible to prevent catching and passing on cytomegalovirus because it is so common and prevalent. Good general hygiene like hand washing, washing shared toys, covering the nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing etc. is the best you can do.
If you or your children are unwell and have any flu-like symptoms, you should stay away from pregnant women and those who have compromised immune systems. This should be standard practice for all people, as a matter of courtesy and safety.