CMV is a Herpes Virus but it isn’t what You’re Thinking…

What is CMV?

Cyto-megalo-what?! If you are reading this post, you probably already know that CMV is the name of a virus. For those of you hearing about it for the first time, here’s what you need to know: 

  • CMV stands for cytomegalovirus. 
  • It is extremely common.
  • It’s the #1 infectious cause of birth defects in the nation and most women have never heard about it (Doutre, et. al, 2016).
  • It is a type of herpesvirus. 

Wait, I have Herpes? (It’s not what you’re thinking…)

If you were just diagnosed with a CMV infection, your first response might be- I DON’T have herpes!!! The herpesvirus STD, which causes genital blisters or lesions, is actually one of 130 herpesviruses strains, 8 of which are known to infect humans (Ada, 2019). And you are likely to have had more than one of them…

The Herpesvirus Family:

  1. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1): Have you ever had a cold sore? Well, then you have had HSV-1, as have about 48% of individuals in the U.S. who are between the ages of 14-49 (Infectious Disease Advisor, 2018). 
  1. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-2): This is the sexually transmitted strain that causes genital blisters or lesions. About 12% of people in the U.S. between the ages of 14-49 carry this virus (Infectious Disease Advisor, 2018). 
Note: Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause neonatal herpes. Neonatal herpes is rare (10/100,000 births globally), but can cause neurologic disability or death (World Health Organization, 2020). Neonatal herpes is NOT the same thing as CMV.
  1. Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV): This strain causes chickenpox, a common childhood disease. When it is reactivated in adults later in life, it causes shingles (Ada, 2019). 
  1.  Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV): 90% of the world’s population carries this virus and its symptoms are mostly mild. If infected as an adolescent or in early adulthood, one can develop infectious mononucleosis or what is commonly known as “mono” (Ada, 2019).
  1. Cytomegalovirus (CMV): CMV is a very common virus that over half of adults are infected with by age 40 (CDC, 2020). It is often harmless to healthy people- many are even asymptomatic- but it can be very serious when contracted during pregnancy or for people with compromised immune systems. 
  1. Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6): A common strain that most people get by age 3. It is often harmless but can cause the common childhood condition called Roseola Infantum. It is most harmful to people with weakened immune systems (Ada, 2019).
  1. Human Herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7): Another common strain often acquired in childhood that is often harmless, but can also reactivate in people with weakened immune systems (Ada, 2019).
  1. Human Herpesvirus 8: Kaposi’s Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus (KSHV): Kaposi’s Sarcoma is a much less common strain of the herpes virus, affecting less than 5% of the U.S. population (Ada, 2019). 

In Summary…

Well, there you have it. CMV is 1 of 8 human herpesviruses. And it is NOT the same as having genital herpes, nor is it the same as the dangerous, but rare, neonatal herpes. CMV is very common among the general public and serious for babies infected in the womb and for those who have weakened immune systems. Over the next few weeks, we will continue to explore more about CMV, such as its level of incidence in different populations, how it is transmitted, and signs of infection. After that, we will dive into other topics, including congenital CMV and its effects on babies, prevention, and treatment. Thank you for reading and stay tuned!

Follow the MCC Blog:

Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team. (2019). Human Herpesvirus (HHV). Retrieved from
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). CMV; Clinical Features for Healthcare Providers. Retrieved from
Doutre S., et. al. (2016). Losing Ground: Awareness of Congenital Cytomegalovirus in the United States. Retrieved from
Infectious Disease Advisor. (2018). CDC Reports on Latest Estimates of HSV-1, HSV-2 Prevalence in the United States. Retrieved from

World Health Organization. (2020). Herpes Simplex Virus. Retrieved from


  1. My granddaughter has Herpes but it has been dormant for at least 4 years. In a blood test during 3rd trimester she shows positive for CMV virus. She was never told and no precautions were taken. Her baby”s heart stopped 3 days before his due date. Need to know if the Herpes caused the CMV?? Or if this is something she contracted during her pregnancy? Could things have been done that would have prevented her child’s death? Autopsy on placenta showed infection.

    1. Hi Gayle,

      I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my 4 month old son to congenital CMV. If your grand-daughter’s placenta showed CMV infection, then it certainly could be the cause of her baby’s death. I want to clarify that Herpesviruses are a family of viruses, which includes Herpes Simplex Virus-1, which causes cold sores, and Herpes Simplex Virus-2, which is the STD. CMV is a completely different strain and wouldn’t be caused by the STD or cold sores. Pregnant women often contract CMV from young children, as it is a very common virus. It can be prevented by avoiding contact with the bodily fluids of young children. Our coalition is working on raising awareness about these simple prevention methods.

      Hope this helps,

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