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Epstein-Barr Virus Infection (cont.)

Epstein-Barr Virus Infection Causes and Risk Factors

EBV is a contagious virus that is transmitted from person to person and occurs throughout the world. The cause of infection is generally close person-to-person contact through bodily fluids, especially saliva. It may also be transmitted during sexual contact through semen, and can also be spread by blood transfusions or organ transplants.

The virus contains double-stranded DNA and multiplies in white blood cells (lymphocytes) and other cells, such as those lining the mouth, tongue, and nose. The human immune system usually contains the virus effectively, reducing but not eliminating the viruses. A few living viruses will persist in a line of lymphocytes for the rest of the person's life. This is known as "latent" infection (inactive stage). Occasionally, the virus may multiply (reactivate), but this does not cause symptoms unless the person's immune system is not working properly.

While most people in the U.S. have been infected with EBV, mononucleosis is more common in whites than in African-American populations.

Some risk factors associated with acquiring EBV include being female, living in tropical countries, and being sexually active.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/22/2015

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