Mono, short for infectious mononucleosis, is a contagious infection that can cause fever, sore throat, fatigue, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. Commonly called “the kissing disease,” mono often affects adolescents and young adults.
The incubation period for mono, which is the period of time between infection and when symptoms first appear, is one to two months. Mono is contagious during the incubation period, even before symptoms start.
- People continue to be contagious while symptoms are present, which can last two to four weeks or more.
- Experts aren't actually sure how long people with mono remain contagious after symptoms go away, but they may be able to spread the infection for even up to 18 months or longer after recovering.
- In addition, people can be carriers, in which they become infected with the virus but have no symptoms. These people may not know they are infected and can still pass the virus on to others.
- People are often exposed to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the virus that commonly causes mono, during childhood, although they may not realize it at the time because they may not have symptoms or symptoms are mild.
- Most people have been infected with EBV by adulthood.
What Are Symptoms of Mono?
Symptoms of mono (infectious mononucleosis) may come on slowly and usually develop four to eight weeks after infection and may include:
- Extreme fatigue, which may last for more than a month
- Sore throat
- Fever (temperature greater than 100.4°F or 38°C)
- Body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
- Swollen liver and/or spleen (less common)
Some people may continue to feel fatigue for several weeks even after other symptoms go away. In rare cases, symptoms of mono last six months or more.
How Do You Get Mono?
The most common cause of mono (infectious mononucleosis) is the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
- The virus is often spread through bodily fluids, especially saliva, through kissing (mono is frequently referred to as “the kissing disease”), sharing eating utensils, or drinking from the same glass as an infected person.
- EBV can also be spread through blood and semen during sexual contact, blood transfusions, and organ transplantations.
How Is Mono Diagnosed?
To find out if you are infected with mono, you will need to visit your doctor to confirm. Mono (infectious mononucleosis) is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination. A diagnosis of mono is usually based on symptoms and lab tests are generally not needed.
- Sometimes a blood test called the Monospot is used to confirm a diagnosis. However, the Monospot test often produces false negatives early in the illness so it’s not always considered reliable.
- Sometimes, additional blood tests may be used to identify the cause of illness in people who do not have typical cases of infectious mononucleosis.
What Is the Treatment for Mono?
Mononucleosis is generally not considered a serious illness and most people recover completely within one to four weeks without any complications. Treatment for mono (infectious mononucleosis) is aimed at relief of symptoms.
Home remedies to relieve symptoms of mono may include:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Drinking fluids
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for pain and fever
- Avoid contact sports until you fully recover
- Mono can cause the spleen to become enlarged and strenuous activities such as sports may cause the spleen to rupture
Antibiotics are not used to treat mono, because it is caused by a virus. There are currently no antiviral medications that are effective to treat or cure Epstein-Barr virus.
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