Infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr)

Mouth | Allergy & Immunology | Infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr) (Disease)


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a widespread human herpes virus, can cause mononucleosis — but usually, it doesnt. In fact, most EBV infections arent noticeable, even when theyre most active in your body. By age 35, almost everyone has antibodies to EBV, indicating past infection.

The infection generally causes no signs or symptoms, except in teenagers and young adults. In that age group, up to half of EBV infections cause mononucleosis — a disease that features fatigue, headache, fever, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.

Causes and Risk factors

It takes more than an uncovered cough or sneeze to transmit EBV. During primary infection, people shed the virus in saliva. You need close contact, such as kissing or sharing a cup with an infected person, to catch EBV.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A CBC to detect abnormal white blood cells (atypical lymphocytes) is commonly performed. A positive mono spot detecting the Epstein Barr virus is the most common method of diagnosis.

Most patients recover within 2-4 weeks without medication. Acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and drinking plenty of fluids are the mainstay of treatment. There is no specific anti-viral treatment available. Steroid medication may be considered for patients with severe symptoms. Patients are asked to avoid contact sports to prevent the spleen from rupturing. ...