Mononucleosis (often called "mono") is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr
virus. Signs of mono include fever, sore throat, headaches, white patches on the
back of your throat, swollen glands in your neck, feeling tired and not feeling
hungry. Infectious mononucleosis, or glandular fever, is often called the
kissing disease. The label is only partly true. Kissing can spread the virus
that causes this disease, but more commonly coughing, sneezing, or sharing a
glass or cup transmits mononucleosis. It's not highly contagious.
Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Mono usually isn't very serious, although the virus remains in your body for life. Some people with mono have minimal symptoms, and the infection goes unrecognized. Most people have been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus by the time they're 35 years old and have built up antibodies. They're immune and won't get it again. Full-blown mono is common in people ages 7 to 35, and the highest incidence is in people between the ages of 15 and 24. In non-Western countries, mononucleosis has become increasingly common in children younger than 3 years.
Infectious mononucleosis is a common viral infection that causes fever, sore throat, and enlarged lymph nodes. The most common complaint is a sore throat. It is commonly caused by Epstein-Barr virus but can be caused by other viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV). It is diagnosed most frequently among teenagers and young adults.
The illness generally goes away without much medical help. However, it may last weeks to months. Treatment mainly is to help symptoms and can nearly always be done at home with plenty of rest.
Mononucleosis is technically called infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever, but is generally referred to as "mono" for short. It occurs primarily between the ages of 10 and 35 years old. When younger children are infected, it causes little or no illness. Such exposure does, however, create an immunity to the disease. Nearly 90% of Americans have antibodies for mononucleosis by age 40. Mono has an incubation period of 30 to 40 days and the symptoms usually last 7 to 14 days but can last for several weeks. The virus can stay alive within the body for several months. The name mononucleosis comes from the fact that the disease distorts the white blood cells, causing them to only have one nucleus. Only a blood test called the mononucleosis spot test can determine if someone has the disease.
Even though this virus is classified as one of several herpes viruses, it has nothing to do with cold sores or genital herpes. It's grouped as a herpes virus because once you've been infected, the virus stays in your body the rest of your life and may reappear in your saliva from time to time. However, you usually won't get the symptoms of mono again from this virus.
Mononucleosis is a respiratory virus that affects the blood cells and the salivary glands (the glands responsible for producing saliva). Even though anyone can get mononucleosis, most people who get the illness are between the ages of 10 and 25. Teens often kid around about mono, but as Ashley discovered, it's no joke. A severe case of mono can keep you out of commission for weeks.
EBV is transmitted through the saliva. Young children can be infected from the saliva of playmates or family members. Adolescents with the virus can spread EBV through kissing (hence its once popular name, "the kissing disease"). Epidemic outbreaks in hospitals and workplaces have occurred.
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Date of Last Update: 07/27/12