Childcare and healthcare workers are among those at increased risk for exposure to cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV is especially hazardous for workers who are or may become pregnant, or who could spread the virus to a sexual partner(s) who is or may become pregnant, due to the intellectual and motor disabilities that CMV can cause in infants born to mothers infected with the virus during pregnancy.
Workers in childcare and some healthcare jobs have frequent potential exposure to people—usually children—infected with CMV. The virus spreads through contact with body fluids, including saliva, nasal secretions, and excrement. Recognizing when, where, and how these exposures occur is an important step in preventing worker exposure to CMV.
Risks to Childcare Workers
The primary risk factor for CMV infection is frequent contact with young children. Nearly one in three children are infected by age five; therefore, infectious body fluids are likely to be encountered in a childcare center.
Infection rates among female childcare center staff vary from 8% to 20% per year in different cities.1 There is little data available about CMV infection among male childcare center staff, especially because CMV infections often go undetected in otherwise healthy adults. However, between 40% and 70% of childcare center staff have had prior CMV infections.
Activities that can lead to childcare worker exposure include:
- Changing a child's diaper
- Wiping a child's nose or mouth
- Handling toys that may have been in children's mouths
- Feeding a child
- Sharing food, drinks, or utensils with children
- Providing first aid
Risks to Healthcare Workers
Healthcare workers have daily encounters with sick patients and are at an increased risk for exposure to CMV. Although CMV is typically not the cause of cold- or flu-like symptoms in otherwise healthy adults, patients who present with these types of symptoms may be infected with CMV. To help prevent CMV infections, employers and workers should treat all body fluids as if they are potentially infectious with CMV and follow the precautions described in the Control and Prevention page. Depending on workers’ job tasks and exposures, this may include following universal precautions as required in OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard (29 CFR 1910.1030), as well as standard precautions, which expand universal precautions beyond what the BBP standard requires.
1 American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Infectious Diseases. (2015). Red Book: 2015 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.