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You Can Prevent CMV

En Español

  • CMV infection is very common; between 50 and 85 percent of all Americans have CMV by age 40.
  • In people with HIV, CMV can cause retinitis (ret-in-I-tis), which can cause blindness.
  • You can take steps to reduce your chance of infection with CMV and to protect yourself from CMV-related diseases.

What is CMV?

You can prevent CMVCMV, or cytomegalovirus (si-to-MEG-a-lo-vi-rus), is a virus that is found in all parts of the world. For someone with HIV or AIDS, CMV can cause retinitis (blurred vision and blindness), painful swallowing, diarrhea, and pain, weakness, and numbness in the legs.

How is CMV spread?

CMV spreads from one person to another in saliva (spit), semen, vaginal secretions, blood, urine, and breast milk. You can get CMV when you touch these fluids with your hands, then touch your nose or mouth. People can also get CMV through sexual contact, breastfeeding, blood transfusions, and organ transplants.

How can I protect myself from CMV?

condomYou may already have CMV. However, you can take steps to avoid CMV, such as:

  • washing your hands frequently and thoroughly
  • using condoms (However, no protective method is 100 percent effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any sexually transmitted disease)
  • talking to your doctor if you expect to receive a blood transfusion. Most blood banks don’t screen blood for CMV.

If you work in a day care center, you should take these special precautions:

  • wash your hands thoroughly after contact with urine or saliva
  • avoid oral contact with saliva or objects covered with saliva (such as cups, pacifiers, toys, etc.)
  • talk with your doctor about whether you should continue to work in a day care center.

Children imageHow do I know if I have CMV?

A blood test can tell you if you have CMV, but this test is not commonly performed. CMV doesn’t always cause symptoms. Some people have fatigue, swollen glands, fever, and sore throat when they first get CMV. But these are also symptoms of other illnesses, so most people don’t know it when they get CMV.

How is CMV different for someone with HIV?

Once CMV enters a person’s body, it stays there. Most people with CMV never get CMV-related diseases. However, in people with HIV or AIDS, the virus can cause severe disease.

How can I prevent CMV disease?

The most important thing you can do is to get the best care you can for your HIV infection. Take your antiretroviral medicine just the way your doctor tells you to. If you get sick from your medicine, call your doctor for advice. CMV disease mostly affects HIV-infected people whose CD4 cell counts are below 100. Oral (taken by mouth) ganciclovir (gan-CY-clo- veer) may be used to prevent CMV disease, but it is expensive, has side effects, and may not work for all people. Normally, ganciclovir is not recommended, but you may want to talk with your doctor about it.

For More Information, call:

Free referrals and information:

1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636)
TTY: 1-888-232-6348
In English, en Español
24 Hours/Day

Free materials:

CDC National Prevention Information Network
(800) 458-5231
1-301-562-1098 (International)
P.O. Box 6003
Rockville, MD 20849-6003

Free HIV/AIDS treatment information:

(800) 448-0440

Project Inform
(800) 822-7422

Drugs undergoing clinical trials:

(800) 448-0440

Social Security benefits:

Social Security Administration
(800) 772-1213

(You also may request a personal earnings and benefit estimate statement to help you estimate the retirement, disability, and survivor benefits payable on your Social Security record.)

Child Health Insurance Program
1-877 KIDS NOW (1-877-543-7669)

CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention Internet address:

Additional brochures in the Opportunisitic Infections Series:

*Use of trade names does not imply endorsement by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Last Modified: June 21, 2007
Last Reviewed: June 21, 2007
Content Source:
Divisions of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
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