referred to as the “kissing disease,” mononucleosis is a
common ailment caused by the Epstein-Barr virus that is
transmitted through saliva.
While you can
get the virus through kissing, you also can be exposed through
a cough or sneeze, or by sharing cups or utensils with someone
who is infected. According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, up to 95 percent of people will be infected
with the Epstein-Barr virus at some point in their lives, with
approximately 1 in 4 people developing infectious
mononucleosis, or mono.
“Mono is very
common and contagious, although not as contagious as some
infections, such as the common cold,” says Dr. Tina Ardon, a
family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.
mononucleosis can affect anyone, it is more common in
adolescents and young adults in particular. “They are more
prone because of how it spreads,” says Ardon, adding that
mononucleosis can occur at any time but is more prevalent
during cold and flu season.
MONONUCLEOSIS OR SOMETHING ELSE?
Ardon many with Epstein-Barr virus infections will be
asymptomatic, but others will have symptoms that mimic other
illnesses, such as fever, sore throat and swollen glands.
symptoms of mono, including fatigue, can last for several
weeks and can have an enormous impact on quality of life,
school, activities, and so on,” says Ardon.
A blood test is
available to help confirm the diagnosis of mononucleosis.
usually focused on rest and medications to aid with specific
symptoms, if needed, she adds.
mononucleosis isn’t dangerous for most people, Ardon notes
that some individuals can have rarer complications that may
include problems with their liver, low blood or platelet
counts or nervous system issues. It also can cause serious
challenges for those patients who have a suppressed immune
system, such as those on chemotherapy or with HIV/AIDS.
Since there is
no vaccine for the Epstein-Barr virus, it is important to
practice good general hygiene like hand-washing.
If you are
diagnosed with mononucleosis, Ardon recommends keeping your
distance. “You can prevent spreading the virus to others by
not kissing, (and not) sharing food, dishes, glasses and other
personal items,” Ardon says. “And cover your mouth and
nose when sneezing or coughing. This is important when it
comes to preventing the spread of all viruses, including