Slideshow: Infectious Mononucleosis

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, Chief Medical Editor on Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Infectious mononucleosis (“kissing disease”) is a
very common illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

A young couple kisses.

EBV is a double-stranded DNA virus named for the English
virologists professor Sir Anthony Epstein and Yvonne M. Barr.

Professor Sir Anthony Epstein

Most people, sometime in their lives, have
been infected with EBV, the virus that causes mono.

This electron microscopic image of two Epstein-Barr virus virions (viral particles) shows round capsids -- protein-encased genetic material -- loosely surrounded by the membrane envelope.

By adulthood, 90%-95% of men and women have been infected
with EBV, with infection most often occurring in people 5-25 years of age.

A group of students socialize and hang out.

Mono is usually spread by person-to-person
contact with saliva as the primary method of transmission.

A young couple kisses, and a boy sneezes, spraying germ droplets.

During an infection, a person is likely able to
transmit the virus to others for at least a few weeks.

A young girl, contagious with mono, wears a mask.

Approximately 20%-80% of people who have had mono will continue
to secrete the EBV in their saliva for years due to periodic "reactivations."

Cluster of viruses

The initial symptoms of mono are a general
lack of energy (malaise), loss of appetite, and chills.

A girl suffering from mono lies in bed.

The most common signs of mono are a very reddened throat
and tonsils along with swollen lymph glands (nodes) in the neck.

A person diagnosed with mono shows the signs of a reddened sore throat and whitish coating on the  tonsils.

The diagnosis of mono is suspected by the doctor based on the
patient's symptoms and signs and confirmed through blood tests.

A doctor examines a patient's throat for signs of mono.

In most cases of mono, no specific treatment is
necessary although a sufficient amount of sleep and rest is important.

A woman sleeps as she recovers from mono.

Fatigue or tiredness may persist for months, and virus particles may
be present in the saliva for as long as 18 months after the initial infection.

A young male is exhausted and still feeling the effects of infectious mononucleosis.

While there can be complications, fortunately, the more severe
complications of mono are quite rare and are very rarely fatal in healthy people.

A patient is upset after the doctor's diagnosis.

A doctor consults with a patient.

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