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Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono)

Tell me more about mono.
Mononucleosis is caused by an infection of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), a member of the herpesvirus family. During infection, the virus invades certain white blood cells (mononuclear cells), and causes a disruption in immune functioning. In young children, infections are usually asymptomatic or produce very mild symptoms. In older children, adolescents, and young adults, EBV infection produces a syndrome called infectious mononucleosis, creating extreme fatigue and swollen lymph glands.

EBV is one of the most common viruses found in humans- by age 35, almost 95% of American adults have evidence of EBV infection. The virus can remain dormant in the body for years and decades, periodically coming out and replicating again without causing any symptoms.

How is mono transmitted?
Mono was nicknamed the "kissing disease" because direct contact with an infectious person's saliva is required for transmission. Objects contaminated with saliva containing EBV can also be a source of infection. However, since most people have already been infected with EBV, special precautions are usually not necessary.

What are the symptoms of mono?

Thirty to sixty days after being infected by EBV, a person may begin to show symptoms of mono, which include

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Extreme fatigue

When making a diagnosis, a physician will look at the above symptoms, the age of the patient, as well as several tests that look for evidence of an immune response against EBV. Based on these results, a diagnosis of mono is made.

How is mono treated?
As mono is caused by an infection with a virus, there is no specific treatement. Most people recover in 6-8 weeks. Bedrest and fluids are recommended.

How can I prevent mono?
There are no vaccines currently available against EBV, and since the virus is very infectious and very common among all members of the population, remaining uninfected is difficult.

However, good handwashing techniques can reduce a person's chances of becoming infected around a person with mono. People can also transmit virus while not having any symptoms, so it is important always to keep your hands washed.

MedlinePlus Info on Infectious Mononucleosis: