Mononucleosis, aka “mono” is a common viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Mononucleosis symptoms can include fever and sore throat, infection of the liver, lymph nodes and mouth. Swelling of the lymph glands in the neck are the classic symptom. While not considered a dangerous disease, mononucleosis is very contagious and has serious symptoms of fatigue and tiredness which can last for several months.
Mononucleosis can affect people of any age, race or phyical condition. But, it’s more common to see young adults, aged between 15 and 35 years diagnosed with mononucleosis. Teenagers are especially susceptible, with college student contraction rate at approximately 15%, but younger children often misdiagnosed with a different illness due to mononucleosis being difficult in diagnose in pre-teens and younger children.
Healthy people normally are symptomatic for between 4 and 6 weeks. Those with a diminished immune system will have difficulty fighting the disease and it will persist for longer periods of time. In organ transplant recipients, AIDS patients, and others with compromised immune systems, dangerous health problems could result from contracting mononucleosis.
What causes Mononucleosis?
The virus responsible for mononucleosis comes from the same family as the herpes virus, some of which cause infectious diseases like cold sores, chickenpox, and shingles.
Many people are in close proximity to the Epstein-Barr virus at some time during their lives. In the United States, 95% of adults aged between 35 and 40 years have antibodies to the Epstein Barr virus detected in the their body, indicating that at some point in their lives they had been infected by EBV.
Children who are infected with the virus usually do not exhibit symptoms. Only about 10% of children, who are infected with the virus actually develop the illness. Similarly, adults don’t develop the illness either, but it’s likely due to developing an immunity earlier in their lives.
Mononucleosis is very infectious and can be contracted by touching saliva of a contaminated individual or by coughing, sneezing, kissing or other ways of transferring saliva from one person to another.
What are Symptoms of Mononucleosis?
Among the most notable symptoms of mononucleosis are general lack of strength or fatigue, exhaustion, tiredness and weakness. Other general symptoms are:
- aching, painful mouth and throat with swelling around the tonsils
- high temperature and body chills
- nausea, vomiting and irritated digestive system
- reduced appetite
- swelling of lymph nodes mostly noticed in neck, groin and armpits
- severe headaches or joint or muscle ache
- inflammation of the spleen
- red, itchy rash on the skin
Dangerous health problems from mononucleosis can include inflamed spleen or swollen liver. While it’s rare, the spleen could rupture, causing intense pain in the lower left abdomen. Prompt medical treatment is required for anything that could be related to internal organ failure, including intense pain in the abdomen, weakness, accelerated heartrate, and irregular breathing. Additional health risks could include irreparable harm to the heart or brain.
Symptoms typically don’t surface until after 4 to 7 weeks after contact with the virus. Even if symptoms are not apparent, infected people can still pass the virus to other people. A contaminated individual is contagious 5 months after symptoms are no longer visible.
Surprisingly, mononucleosis is not very contagious. People often are in close quarters with an infected family member or friend and don not contract the disease, provided they don’t contact saliva of the infected person.
Treatment of mononucleosis
The preferred treatment for mononucleosis is bed rest to allow the body time to strengthen the immune systems and fight the infection. Individuals suffering from mild symptoms might not need much rest, however they need to limit physical activity to prevent exhaustion. When an infection is identified, strenuous exercise, including athletics and weight lifting, ought to be avoided. These activities may result in a ruptured spleen, increasing the severity of the situation.
If any of the above symptoms or associated signals seem familiar, see your family doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and path to speedy, healthy remedy.