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Epstein-Barr Virus Infection

Epstein-Barr Virus Infection Overview

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 know an human herpes virus 4.

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 reactivate 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 7/22/2015

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