Ten Things You Didn’t Know about Mononucleosis
Often called the kissing disease, mononucleosis (mono) is a very common virus that affects the majority of Americans by the time they reach adulthood. Caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), it most commonly occurs during the teen and young adult years. The most common symptoms include a high fever, headache, sore throat and fatigue. Despite the commonality of the illness, there are many misconceptions. Here are ten things you probably didn’t know about mononucleosis.
- Mono has a long incubation period, which means that it can take up to 6 weeks after being exposed to the virus for symptoms to appear.
- Mono can happen at any age, however, it is most common in 10-35 year olds, with the highest rate of incidence occurring between 15-17 years of age.
- Mono is shed in the throat and can be transmitted through the saliva, which is why it is called the kissing disease. However, it can be transmitted other ways such as sharing food or drinks with an infected person, or through coughing or sneezing.
- Approximately half of all children are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus by age five; however, symptoms typically do not appear in young children, which cause it to go unrecognized. Those who have not been infected by age five will most likely become infected later in life and will at that point develop mono symptoms.
- Once mono is contracted, it remains in the body for life; however, symptoms do not persist outside the initial infection.
- Virus particles can appear in healthy adults who have previously contracted mono. When this occurs, it can be transmitted to others. Since no symptoms appear, this occurs unknowingly.
- By age 40, 85-90% of Americans have EBV antibodies, which means they have the virus and are now immune.
- There is no treatment for uncomplicated mono outside of rest. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken to reduce a fever and relieve body aches. Approximately 50% of people with mono have spleen enlargement, so vigorous exercise should be avoided for two months, as it can increase the risk of spleen rupture.
- The virus can be passed on to others for up to a year after initial infection.
- There is no reason to quarantine people who have mono, as many people are already immune to the virus that causes it. However, it is important to not share food or drinks with others and to listen to the body and rest when fatigued.
Since the symptoms of mono are similar to other viruses, it is important to be seen by a pediatrician if your child is sick. Based on their symptoms they may choose to test them for mono. There are two tests used to diagnose mono. The monospot test is a simple blood test that uses a small sample of blood often from the fingertip and provides results in minutes. The Epstein-Barr antibody test uses blood taken from a vein and results are typically ready within 3 days.