Mononucleosis is a contagious disease mostly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It is also known as kissing disease because you can get this virus via kissing or through sharing some personal things such as drinks or silverware. It is though contagious but you are less likely to develop this infection than the other common contagious illnesses such as cold and cough.
Though mono is not a life-threatening condition if necessary treatment of mononucleosis is not given on time then it can cause major health complications. Its signs or symptoms vary from mild to severe which can affect your daily life routine or activities for many weeks. This infectious illness develops a group of symptoms caused by EBV.
Mononucleosis can affect all age groups of people including little children, teenagers as well as adults. However, teenagers are a greater victim of this contagious disease. The EBV virus spread through saliva and that is what gives this illness the name of kissing disease.
In many cases, people develop this disease at the very young age of their life like a child, after age one. In such cases, the symptoms are extremely mild or nonexistent that they are too hard to recognize as mono. Once a person gets affected with EBV infection they are not likely to develop the anther one. As a child, if you develop mono your risk of getting its recurrent effect over your life-time increases.
This means even if with the treatment you get cured with this infection, chances are there that at some other stage of your life your immune can get affected out of the EBV virus leading to the appearance of its symptoms. However, this infection is not very common among younger age children in the United States as well as other developed countries in the world
As per one study report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mono occurs in young adults and adolescents by 25% of the time if they are infected by EBV. This is the reason why high school and college students are the greater victims of this infectious illness.
Epstein-Barr virus or EBV belongs to the herpes virus family. Usually, people expose this virus at some or other point in time of their lives. As per one study report in the US 85 to 90 % of adults exposed to this virus by the time they enter their 40s. In most of the cases, people exposed to this virus during their childhood stage. However, carrying EBV in the body doesn’t mean that the concerned person will get mono symptoms. In many cases in spite of carrying this virus in body people don’t develop any sign or symptoms of mono, the infectious disease in their entire life.
The Epstein-Barr virus spread through direct interaction with the saliva of an infected person. While kissing the exchange of saliva happens to a great extent so this causes a healthy person to get a victim this infectious disease. However, it is not as contagious as other common contagious health issues like cold and cough, etc. Apart from mouth’s saliva EBV can spread through other fluids of the body too such as semen (via sexual contact) and blood. Apart from this organ transplantation can also spread this virus to a healthy person’s body making them susceptible to this infection.
Also, a healthy person can be exposed to EBV via coughing and sneezing, through sharing foods or drinks with a mono-infected person. Once a person gets mono-infected it takes approx 4 to 8 weeks of time to develop its symptoms. In the cases of children infected with this virus usually, it doesn’t cause any symptoms at all and it often remains unrecognized. In the case of teenagers and adults affected by this virus, sometimes it doesn’t develop any noticeable symptoms that can be identified as mono.
How Does a Person Get Mono?
EBV spreads through bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, and semen. Most commonly it spreads through kissing as saliva can easily transfer from a mono-infected person to a healthy person in this activity. If a mono-infected person uses a spoon or fork while eating, the virus can stick to these objects easily and remain contagious until these objects remain moist.
If a healthy person shares foods, drinks or silverware with a mono virus-infected person then also they can get this infection. In rare cases, this virus can spread through coughing or sneezing of the infected person near a healthy person. You can also get mono through certain medical procedures such as blood transfusion, organ transplant or via sexual contact.
Some people do not develop any symptoms of mono and in some cases, the symptoms are so mild that it remains unnoticed. If a person exposes to EBV he or she may start developing the signs or symptoms of mono within 4 to 7 weeks. The mononucleosis symptoms vary from person to person, however, its overall common symptoms include the following-
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Soreness in throat
- Sore muscles
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Unusual rash growth on your skin or inside your mouth that remains consisting of flat pink or purple spots.
Swelling may occur in your liver or spleen occasionally but mono is rarely got fatal. The symptoms of mono are very difficult to differentiate with other common viruses such as flu. Usually, the symptoms relieve within 1 or 2 weeks of the home treatment or remedies such as excess fluids intake, eating healthy foods and taking enough rest. However, if it doesn’t improve even after one or two weeks of home care and treatment then you must see a doctor.
Mono Incubation Duration
The incubation duration of the EBV is the time frame between you contract this infection first and when you start developing its signs or symptoms. The incubation period usually lasts for 4 to 6 weeks time. Its symptoms last for 1 to 2 months and sometimes some of its symptoms such as fatigue may even last for 6 months or more. The incubation duration in little children is usually shorter than adolescents and adults.
Some of the mono signs such as fever and sore throat reduce just within one or two weeks of its symptoms starting time. Whereas some of its symptoms such as lymph nodes, enlarged spleen, and fatigue may last for more few weeks.
People who usually come in close contact with a large group of people regularly for whatsoever reason contains the risk of getting mono. This is the reason why high schools and college students who are in their teenage are grater victim of this infectious illness. The following group of people has a higher risk factor to contract mono-
- People aging between 15 to 30
- Medical interns
- Caregivers (as they are in close contact with infected family members)
- People who are on medications that work on suppressing the immune system
If necessary treatment for curing mononucleosis not given on time then it can cause serious complications that may include-
- Enlarged Spleen- The cases where mono gets severe the spleen of the patient can burst. As a result of this, you will notice sudden sharp pain on your upper belly’s left side. This is a medical emergency so immediately you should visit a hospital. This may even require a surgical procedure to be conducted depending upon the case severity.
- Swollen Tonsils- A severe mono can make your airways narrower as a result of this you may have difficulty in swallowing foods as well as problem in breathing through the mouth.
- Blood-Related Issues- In the case of severe mononucleosis your body might damage so many red blood cells also known as hemolytic anemia. Other than that the platelet count in your blood may reduce than its necessary level needed for a healthy body, also known as thrombocytopenia.
- Nervous System Related Issues- Different nervous system related problems may appear as a result of severe mononucleosis in the body. Some nervous system-related issues that can appear as a result of this infectious illness include inflammation of the tissues covering your brain (meningitis), brain inflammation (encephalitis) and seizures.
- Heart Problems- In the cases of severe mononucleosis you may develop an uneven heartbeat issue or your heart muscles might get inflamed (myocarditis).
- Liver Problems- Some liver health-related complications may appear as a result of severe mono including jaundice or hepatitis.
People who have a very weak immune system due to certain illnesses like HIV or AIDS or taking certain medications are likely to suffer from more serious types of compilations.
As some other viruses such as hepatitis A can also cause symptoms similar to mononucleosis so to diagnose this infectious disease doctor generally recommends for following diagnostic tests to rule out this health condition.
A doctor will ask some general questions regarding your current symptoms, medical history, etc in your first visit. They will ask about the duration of your symptoms means for the period you are noticing some health symptoms. As people aging between 15 to 25 are more susceptible to get kissing disease if they come in the contact of a person who has mono so your doctor will ask about your close friend's groups to confirm whether you have contracted the infection from someone or not if you fall between this age limit.
So age is considered as one of the important diagnosis factors to rule out this health condition. Other than that they will ask for some common mono symptoms such as fever, swollen glands, and sore throat. The doctor will check your body temperature as well as the glands in your groin, armpits, and neck. In order to check whether your spleen is enlarged or not and they will check your upper left part of the stomach.
White Blood Cell Count
As a defend mechanisms your body started producing more amount of white blood cells once it gets mono-infection. However, only a high count of white blood cells itself cannot prove the existence of EBV but if it exists then it gives a strong indication for its existence possibility.
Complete Blood Count
Your doctor may ask for a blood test to diagnose your complete blood count. This blood test report will help in diagnosing the severity of your infection on the basis of your different blood cell levels. For instance, an increased lymphocyte count in blood indicates the existence of an infection.
This diagnostic test is one of the most reliable tests for diagnosing mono. It is also known as a heterophile test. In this particular blood test antibodies detection is done which are the proteins that your immune system produces in the defense of harmful elements. However, this blood test doesn’t detect EBV antibodies.
Instead of that, it determines other groups of antibodies that your body produces if it gets infected with mono. The antibodies which are detected in this blood test are called heterophile antibodies. This test report shows more reliable reports if it is conducted between 2 to 4 weeks after the appearance of its symptoms.
However, in order to have a positive and reliable report, your blood should have enough level of heterophile antibodies. The monospot report is not always accurate but this test is easy to conduct and its results come out just within one hour or even less.
EBV Antibody Test
Under the condition where the monospot test report comes negative your doctor will recommend for the EBV antibody test. This blood test detects for EBV-specific antibodies in your blood cells. The benefit of this particular diagnostic test is that it can rule out the mono-infection existence even within the first week of your symptoms starting. However, it takes time in getting its results.
There is no specific medications or treatment procedure for treating mononucleosis. Antivirals and antibiotics don’t work on EBV. Usually, its symptoms relieved on their own within one or two months from the date of symptoms appearance. However, if your symptoms don’t improve even after the 1 or 2 months or get worse or if you experience intense abdominal pain then you should contact your doctor.
Things that help in coping with mono symptoms include lots of fluid intake, lots of rest, corticosteroid medications for reducing tonsil and throat swelling, over the counter medications such as acetaminophen for relieving pain, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for relieving fever and its associated pain.
There is no specific vaccine for preventing mononucleosis. Once a person infected with mono the EBV can stay in his or her saliva for several months after the infection date. This means even if the concerned person does not develop any of its symptoms, chances remain that he or she can successfully spread this virus to other healthy people who come in close contact with them.
Though mono is not a life-threatening disease but its virus develops an inactive infection in your body’s immune system for a lifetime. The symptoms of mono hardly last for more than four months however if this happens and your symptoms get worse over time then you should immediately contact a doctor for the proper treatment of mononucleosis for avoiding its complications risks.