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About CMV


What is CMV?

CMV is a type of germ called a virus. The letters “CMV” stand for “cytomegalovirus” (sigh-toe-MEG-a-low-vy-rus). Doctors and nurses usually call it CMV.

CMV is part of a specific group of viruses that can stay in your body for life. Once you get infected, you always have the virus, whether you feel sick or not. Some people get sick when they are first infected and some do not. Many people with CMV do not get sick when they get the virus. 

What are the symptoms of CMV?

The symptoms of CMV infection depend on:

  • Your age when you first get the virus, and
  • How well your immune system is working – The immune system is the body’s infection-fighting system.

If your child is a St. Jude patient, their immune system is probably weaker than normal. CMV can make them sick. If they got it years ago and have a weak immune system now, the virus can become active and make them sick. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands, and
  • Feeling very tired.

CMV can also cause a liver disease called hepatitis.

How does CMV spread?

CMV spreads through body fluids, such as urine or saliva (spit) that contains the virus. It can also spread through a blood transfusion or an organ transplant.

CMV is not extremely contagious (likely to spread easily). But it can spread in areas where people have close contact, including with children. This includes homes and day care centers where there are young children.

How do you test for CMV?

Doctors can do a blood test to look for the virus. Since most people do not get sick when they get CMV, doctors usually do not know if you have it without testing.

How do I keep CMV from spreading?

 To avoid spreading CMV:

  • Wash your hands often. Read “Do you know … Clean hands.”
  • Wear gloves when you touch body fluids, such as urine, vomit, or saliva.

Your child does not need to be isolated if a blood test shows CMV is present in their blood.

How do doctors treat CMV?

Usually, doctors treat people with CMV with:

  • Rest
  • Plenty of fluids, such as water, juice, Gatorade, and tea, and
  • Medicines to treat fever and discomfort, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).

If your child has a weak immune system, their St. Jude doctor might prescribe medicines to fight the virus, called “antivirals.” Your child’s doctor will decide if this is needed. 


If you have questions about CMV or your child’s immune system, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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