What Is CMV?
CMV (cytomegalovirus) is a flu-like virus that most people are exposed to at some point in their lives. You may have already been exposed to CMV without knowing it, because most people infected with CMV have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, CMV can be quite serious for babies and people with weakened immune systems.
What Does CMV Negative Mean?
As with other viruses, once you have had CMV, your body will produce antibodies needed to fight the infection. Thus, if you ever had CMV, it’s likely you are “positive” for the antibodies; if you never had CMV, you are considered “CMV negative” and haven’t produced antibodies against the virus.
CMV is so common that up to 85% of us will be “CMV positive” by age 40. This means that as few as 15% of adults are CMV negative.
How Do You Get CMV?
CMV is contagious. It is passed through close contact with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine, breast milk and more. It is possible for CMV to be passed during an organ transplant or blood transfusion, when the donor is CMV positive and the recipient is CMV negative.
If a pregnant woman has CMV antibodies in her blood or contracts a CMV infection during her pregnancy, she can pass CMV to her baby through the placenta. CMV contracted by an unborn baby is known as congenital CMV.
Although congenital CMV affects around 1 in 200 babies, many of them will not show any symptoms. Some will have symptoms such as premature birth, low birth weight, hearing or vision problems, and other developmental issues.
Why Do Newborn Babies Need CMV Negative Blood?
CMV is generally harmless to healthy kids and adults, but it can be fatal to newborns. For this reason, babies needing transfusions as part of their medical care should only receive CMV negative blood from donors who have not been exposed to CMV.
Be a Hero for Babies. If you have O negative, CMV negative blood, your blood donation is urgently needed to help newborns and premature babies.
Who Else Needs CMV Negative Blood?
Most children and adults receiving blood transfusions do not need CMV negative blood. However, CMV can cause serious problems for people who have weakened immune systems, affecting the eyes, lungs, nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract. For that reason, people who are immunocompromised, such as people with HIV or AIDS, should be given CMV negative blood when needed.
Why CMV Negative Donations Are So Important
The American Red Cross supplies CMV negative, pediatric-specific blood products to hospitals throughout the country every day. Since CMV is so common among adults, only a small number of donors are eligible to meet this need. If you are CMV negative, please consider donating blood as often as possible throughout the year. Not sure what your CMV status is? Donate blood – if your blood is tested and found to be CMV negative, we’ll get in touch.