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Cytomegalovirus From Cats and Other Pets

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Cytomegalovirus are organisms causing diseases in animals that may lead to malformations in the human body. This article is an overview of cytomegalovirus from pets.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Pandian. P

Published At June 7, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 12, 2023

What Is a Cytomegalovirus Infection?

Cytomegaloviruses are microscopic organisms and agents of infection in a diversity of animals. The cytomegalovirus in humans has been associated with several infections that are known for leading to malformations. There are other kinds of cytomegalovirus infections in humans via pets such as cats and dogs that are not apparent at all. Cytomegalovirus infections from cats and other pets tend to cause more harm and severe deformities in individuals who are immunosuppressed.

A few animals tend to have cytomegalovirus infections that have mild signs and symptoms. In case the animal is suffering from mild symptoms, the clinical manifestation in human beings that have been affected by the cytomegalovirus infection are also parallelly mild. There has been continuous study in the transfer of cytomegalovirus and other zoonotic disease from animals to human beings, thanks to the state-of-the-art in vitro technology. Animals suffering from cytomegalovirus can additionally be used as a model in order to study and understand the molecular structure of cytomegalovirus host-cell interaction, immunobiology, and pathogenesis.

How Is Cytomegalovirus Transmitted to Humans From Cats and Other Pets?

Every individual who is a pet owner, whether it be a cat, a dog, or any other pet animal, must make sure that their pets are keeping well and healthy. This is not only for the well-being of the pet but also for the health of the owner, including the entire family. Pets, just like human beings, have the tendency to pass on a few infections to their human friends, and cytomegalovirus is one of them. Animals are a walking house of germs. Thus, microorganisms such as parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses can easily make their way to human beings.

Mentioned below are a few ways cytomegalovirus can be transmitted to humans from cats and other pets:

  • Bite of a sick pet or animal.

  • Scratching with dirty nails.

  • Coming in contact with animal stools.

  • Direct contact with the saliva of animals.

  • Ticks and tick-prone diseases.

  • Animal dander.

Who Is at a Greater Risk of Being Infected With Cytomegalovirus?

Coming in contact with a sick animal does not always mean falling ill with the same disease. The immune system of human beings is made in a way that fights off several microorganisms. Nevertheless, there are certain groups of individuals who are at a greater risk of being infected with diseases from animals.

Mentioned below are a few categories of individuals who are highly prone to developing cytomegalovirus from cats or other pets:

  • Toddlers.

  • Infants.

  • Children less than the age of five.

  • Pregnant females.

  • Lactating women.

  • Presence of an underlying condition.

  • Immunosuppressed individuals.

  • Patients going through chemotherapy.

  • Patients with long-standing cases of severe illness.

  • Moribund individuals (who are at the state of dying).

  • Non-vaccinated individuals, regardless of age and gender.

  • Patients on steroids and related medications.

  • Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)-positive individuals.

  • Children with a weakened state of the immune system.

  • Individuals suffering from autoimmune diseases.

  • Patients with an ongoing condition of eczema.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Individuals Suffering From Cytomegalovirus?

Cytomegalovirus can be easily spread between animals and humans via several routes such as direct or indirect contact with infected animals and their body fluids, etc. It should be noted that the clinical manifestations of cytomegalovirus or any disease, are generally at par with the clinical manifestations experienced by the infected animal. In case the disease is mild, humans parallelly reveal milder symptoms. If the infected animal is highly contagious, the infected human being may simultaneously develop stronger and more severe manifestations of the same disease.

Mentioned below are a few of the signs and symptoms of individuals suffering from cytomegalovirus from cats and other pets:

  • Fatigue.

  • Yellowish discoloration of skin and eyes.

  • Inflammation of the liver.

  • Dry cough.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Headache.

  • Rashes.

  • Swelling of the spleen.

  • Difficulty in concentrating.

  • Episodes of seizures.

  • Loss of hearing.

  • Pneumonia.

  • Low birth weight.

  • Blurred vision.

  • Diarrhea.

  • Painful ulcers in the mucous membranes.

  • Pain in the abdomen.

  • Confusion.

  • Weight loss.

  • Pain in the lower back region.

How to Diagnose the Presence of Cytomegalovirus?

Pet animals must always be taken for routine examination and general checkups. This will help diagnose any abrupt medical condition as well as keep infections at bay. It is generally difficult to understand the signs and symptoms of a particular disease in animals. Thus, utmost care must be taken to follow a routine health checkup of our furry friends. Nevertheless, there are several tests to diagnose the presence of cytomegalovirus, both in animals as well as in humans.

Mentioned below are a few of the diagnostic tools for cytomegalovirus:

  • Complete blood picture.

  • Urine culture.

  • Routine urine examination.

  • Eye tests for inflammation.

  • Computed tomography of the brain and the lungs.

  • Biopsy of the intestine.

  • Polymerase chain reaction.

  • Cytomegalovirus antigen testing.

  • Virus culture.

  • Serological tests.

What Is the Treatment of Cytomegalovirus?

There is no particular cure for cytomegalovirus because the virus remains in the body even if it is inactive. The cytomegalovirus can cause various symptoms depending on the site of infection. Treatment differs as per the organ that has been deformed. Induction therapy is one of the most successful therapy for cytomegalovirus infections. The therapy begins with an intravenous mode of drug administration that lasts for prescribed weeks. The patient is then advised to switch to oral medications.

What Are the Risks of Cytomegalovirus?

Complications are a part and parcel of every health condition. It should be noted that cytomegalovirus does lead to several complications but it is extremely rare.

Mentioned below are a few risks of cytomegalovirus:

  • Inflammation of the brain.

  • Retinitis.

  • Pneumonia.

  • Skin lesions.

  • Swelling of the cardiac muscles.

  • Difficulty in breathing.

  • Deformity of the lungs, esophagus, colon, nerves, and mucous membranes.

  • Mononucleosis.

  • Guillain-Barre syndrome.

  • Cerebral palsy.

  • Difficulty in the coordination of muscles.

Conclusion:

Cytomegalovirus is a viral infection that can be easily passed on from animals to human beings. Animals must be under routine medical examination to keep cytomegalovirus or any similar infections at bay. Contact, direct or indirect, with animals must be kept limited, especially for infants and immunocompromised individuals. There is no definite cure for cytomegalovirus. The virus stays in the human body and is reactivated in case the patient undergoes any organ transplantation or stem cell therapy. Making sure one’s pets are completely vaccinated is a key to healthy pet and family life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Happens if One Tests CMV Positive?

Cytomegalovirus is a common virus, and if one tests positive for CMV IgG, it indicates that the person acquired a CMV infection at some point in their lives but does not specify when the person acquired the infection. This is applicable in persons ≥12 months of age when maternal antibodies are no longer found. Problems in healthy people due to CMV are uncommon, but it can be a matter of concern in immunocompromised and pregnant women.

2.

Should One Worry About CMV?

CMV infection usually does not cause any harm in healthy adults and children since their immune system offers protection against the infection. However, it can be a matter of concern in immunocompromised and pregnant women since a mother infected with CMV can transmit the infection to her developing baby, which can lead to birth defects and other health issues (congenital CMV).

3.

Who Is Prone to Acquire Cytomegalovirus Infection?

It is found that about 33 % of children under the age of 5 acquire a CMV infection. Those who live with or work with children who are under 5 years of age, those who are immunocompromised, those who live in crowded conditions, and pregnant women are more prone to acquire CMV infection. Infants can become infected during birth if the infection is transmitted by the mother or shortly after birth if CMV is transmitted through breast milk.

4.

How Long Does Cytomegalovirus Stay in the Body?

If a person is symptomatic, the condition gets better within three weeks without any medical intervention. The CMV can, however, dwell inside the individual, be dormant, remain throughout life, and reactivate under certain conditions. There are chances that the person can be re-infected with a different variety (strain) of the virus. The majority of people are unaware of the infection until symptoms appear.

5.

How Can One Recover From CMV?

Treatment is generally not required and the condition can get better without any medical intervention within three weeks and recovery can be quick in healthy individuals. Newborns and immunocompromised people require treatment if they are symptomatic. Antiviral medication is usually given to symptomatic individuals. Taking sufficient rest, painkillers, and warm saltwater gargles can help ease the symptoms.

6.

Is Cytomegalovirus Harmful?

Cytomegalovirus is a common virus and a majority of the people who acquire the infection are unaware that they have been infected unless they turn symptomatic. Healthy adults and children can recover quickly if they experience any symptoms since their immune system fights against the infection. CMV can stay dormant throughout life and can reactivate under certain conditions. It can cause serious health issues in immunocompromised people, pregnant women, and babies who acquire the infection during or immediately after birth.

7.

How Does Cytomegalovirus Spread?

CMV can spread through direct contact with infectious body fluids like saliva, urine, blood, semen, tears, and breast milk. It can also spread sexually and through blood transfusions and organ transplants. An infected mother can pass the CMV infection to her baby.

8.

Can One Live With CMV?

The body can retain the CMV infection if infected once and the virus can remain for a lifetime. Majority of the people are unaware of the infection until symptoms appear. There are chances that an infected person can shed the virus in saliva or urine occasionally. It can cause serious issues in immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, babies, and those who have had organ transplants and blood transfusions.

9.

What Gets Rid of Cytomegalovirus?

Antiviral therapy like intravenous ganciclovir or oral valganciclovir are the major drugs used to get rid of cytomegalovirus. Antiviral medications can minimize the risk, and retard the reproduction of the virus but not completely eliminate the infection or reverse the damage. Researchers are in progress to discover new medicines and vaccines that could treat and prevent cytomegalovirus.

10.

How Quickly Can CMV Spread?

The spread of CMV through casual contact is very uncommon and hence is not highly communicable. It usually spreads by direct and prolonged contact with infectious body fluids like saliva, urine, blood, semen, tears, and breast milk. It can also spread sexually and through blood transfusions and organ transplants. An infected mother can pass the CMV infection to her baby.

11.

Which Doctor Treats Cytomegalovirus Infection?

Infectious disease experts are the doctors who treat cytomegalovirus infection and help rule out underlying human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

12.

Can CMV Spread Through Kissing?

Kissing has a low risk of transmitting CMV when compared to oral sex and sexual intercourse but some chances kissing can transmit CMV and other infections like herpes, and syphilis. It can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, especially through sores.

13.

What Is the Home Remedy for CMV Infection?

Taking zinc, magnesium, and selenium supplements has proved to be effective against CMV infection. Zinc has been found to interfere with the multiplication of some viruses by hindering RNA replication. Vitamin C and herbs like Astragalus, Phyllanthus, and reishi mushrooms can help deal with CMV naturally. A physician should be consulted before taking the supplements.
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Dr. Pandian. P
Dr. Pandian. P

General Surgery

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