What is cytomegalovirus and what should you know about it?

by | Dec 1, 2023 | Health and Wellness

Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a common virus that circulates year-round, with as many as half of all Canadian adults exposed to it at least once in their lifetime. Although people with healthy immune systems can fight off CMV without even realizing they have it, those with compromised immune systems may face serious health issues.

For some, such as transplant recipients, CMV can have serious effects including fever, muscle pain, joint pain, inflamed liver and various blood disorders or can lead to CMV disease that can damage organs or cause the loss of the transplanted organ.

After a transplant operation, patients must take medications to suppress the immune system to help prevent the body from rejecting the new organ. Due to this, organ and stem cell transplant recipients are at a higher risk of contracting CMV and having serious side effects.

Transplant recipients can be exposed to CMV in three ways: through contact with bodily fluids of someone positive with CMV, a revived form if they previously had an infection, or the virus may be in the transplanted organ.

Pregnancy is also a concern, with the potential for women who contract CMV to transmit it to their baby. This can result in premature birth, low birthweight and jaundice. In some cases, those children might have hearing and developmental issues or experience seizures.

If you or a family member is undergoing a transplant procedure, talk to your doctor about the risks of CMV and preventative measures you can take.

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