Up to 70 percent of the German population is affected – Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a viral infection that is usually harmless to healthy adults. This disease is caused by the cytomegalovirus, which belongs to the herpes virus.
Cytomegalovirus – What is it?
Anyone who has been infected with the virus once, especially in times of stress or a weakened immune system can expect an outbreak of the disease – a lifetime.
The infection manifests itself with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and sore throat and swelling of the lymph nodes.
While cytomegalovirus is safe for a healthy adult, it is associated with health risks for immunocompromised individuals and premature babies. But unborn babies are also at risk if the expectant mother becomes infected with the cytomegalovirus for the first time during her pregnancy.
In some cases, CMV infection can trigger premature birth. Symptoms of cytomegalovirus include, for example, hearing impairment, growth disorders, enlargement of the liver and spleen, or developmental disorders of the brain.
Nevertheless, not every child that has become infected in the womb sustains damage later. According to estimates, in Germany, up to 1 percent of all pregnant women are affected by a first infection with the virus. Around 10 percent of these children have symptoms of cytomegalovirus after birth.
Pregnant women who already carry the CMV virus from a previous infection need not worry because they have already developed antibodies.
Transmission of the virus
The cytomegalovirus is transmitted via blood, saliva and urine. For example, adults may become infected during intercourse, blood transfusion or organ transplantation. Especially treacherous: Pregnant women do not notice if they have been infected and pass the virus to their unborn child with a probability of about 40 percent.
But even during the birth process, infection with the baby is possible because the virus is eliminated with the cervical secretions. After birth, the transmission can be done by the droplet and smear infection, but also via the breast milk.
Symptoms after birth
While in healthy and premature babies, the infection with the virus often runs without apparent symptoms, cytomegalovirus can cause damage in premature preemies. The risk group includes, above all, babies born before the 30th week of pregnancy and preemies with a birth weight of less than 1000 g.
Since the virus is transmitted via breast milk, doctors advise against breastfeeding the premature babies. In infected infants, cytomegalovirus development may be delayed; deaf, impaired, organ augmented, anemia or mentally impaired. Many newborns experience symptoms only months after infection. The most common long-term consequences include hearing loss.
Therapy and prevention
Women can have their blood tested at the early stages of pregnancy, whether they already carry the virus and have antibodies to it. In this case, the unborn baby is not endangered. If the test is negative, it should be repeated every 6 to 8 weeks. If, however, a first infection with the cytomegalovirus is detected, pregnant women will be given special antibodies.
Since the CMV test does not belong to the examinations within the framework of the precaution, it is not paid by the health insurance. If the pregnant woman wants to be tested, she should contact her doctor. A vaccine against the cytomegalovirus does not yet exist.
In the unborn child can be determined with blood or amniotic fluid examination, whether it has been infected with the virus.
The therapy is aimed at infection with CMV after the course of the disease. In children and adults with no or mild symptoms, no treatment is usually required. In newborns, according to experts, a drug therapy makes sense.
But there are also ways to prevent infection with the virus: For pregnant women, careful hand washing is therefore particularly important. Also, women who are not yet infected with the virus should avoid close contact with young children because they transmit the virus via saliva and urine.
Therefore, women who work as educators, childminders or pediatric nurses are, particularly at risk.
- A herpes virus transmits cytomegalovirus
- Contagion from blood, semen, urine, saliva, breast milk
- Infection often goes undetected
- The danger for unborn children and premature babies
- Consequential damage to the child: e.g., organ damage, deafness, developmental delays
- CMV test is not yet part of pregnancy screening
- There is no vaccine against cytomegalic