Cytomegalovirus is a prevalent virus which is a member of the family of herpes viruses. It can infect many individuals at some point in their lives. The virus spreads to children via bodily fluids such as urine, tears, saliva, blood and even breast milk.
The condition is usually spread while changing diapers, bathing or during other close contact. Adults and teenagers spread the virus through close exposure such as kissing or sexual contact.
Cytomegalovirus is responsible for causing common congenital infections. It is important to note that infants can acquire the infection from their infected mothers, oftentimes before birth if the virus is passed to the fetus via the placenta or during delivery. In addition, it can also be transmitted via infected breast milk.
When one is infected, the virus remains in a resting or inactive state and can turn intermittently active and appear in the secretions. The virus might reactivate and trigger an illness if the immune system of the individual weakens due to a disease or medication.
What are the indications?
Once a child acquires the infection, only mild symptoms arise or even none. Nevertheless, some infections can trigger symptoms.
Many infants born with the infection do not have any evident symptoms at birth and remain well. Nevertheless, some were discovered with hearing loss or a learning disability. In rare cases, these infants have symptoms at birth such as jaundice, low birth weight, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes.
Among children with deteriorating immune systems, the cytomegalovirus infection can affect several organs including the liver, lungs, kidneys, bone marrow and the bowels. Among children with transplanted organs, the infection might be associated with rejection or breakdown of the transplant.
In most cases among children, there is no need for specific treatment for cytomegalovirus infections. Nevertheless, serious cases among children with deteriorated immune systems such as those with HIV infections or an organ transplant can be managed with ganciclovir.
Proper hygiene habits especially regular hand washing can reduce the risk for spreading the infection.
When caring for a child with cytomegalovirus infection, always wash hands frequently especially after changing diapers. Many children with the infection do not have symptoms but can spread the virus via urine.
Children should avoid sharing utensils and cups since they are contaminated by saliva and can distribute viruses from one individual to another.