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Epstein-Barr Virus Infection

What Is an Epstein-Barr Virus Infection?

The virus was first discovered in 1964 when Sir Michael Anthony Epstein and Ms. Yvonne Barr found it in a Burkitt lymphoma cell line. In 1968, the virus was linked to the disease infectious mononucleosis. Infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is common and usually occurs in childhood or early adulthood. EBV is the cause of infectious mononucleosis (also termed "mono"), an illness associated with fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and sometimes an enlarged spleen. It is also known as human herpes virus 4. Although EBV can cause mononucleosis, not everyone infected with the virus will get mononucleosis.

Less commonly, EBV can cause more serious disease. Symptoms caused by EBV are usually mild and self-limited, but the virus persists in the body for life. It can be reactivated quietly without causing symptoms and may contaminate saliva. Thus, otherwise healthy people can spread the virus to uninfected people through kissing or sharing food. This is why mononucleosis is referred to as the "kissing disease." EBV probably plays a role in the development of some cancers, including certain lymphomas and nasopharyngeal cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/28/2016

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Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) & Mononucleosis

The Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis in the majority of cases. This ubiquitous, highly contagious organism is a member of the Herpesviridae family of viruses (other viruses in this family include herpes simplex, varicella-zoster, cytomegalovirus, and human herpes virus 6 & 7). Cytomegalovirus (CMV) can sometimes also cause an illness with the symptoms of mononucleosis.



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