What Is Mononucleosis?
- Infectious mononucleosis (often called "mono") is a common viral infection that causes:
- Mononucleosis is most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and it is most frequently diagnosed in teenagers and young adults.
- Mononucleosis generally resolves without medical help, though it may last from weeks to months.
- Treatment is aimed at easing the symptoms of the illness, and it can usually be done at home with plenty of rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications.
- Serious complications only rarely occur.
What Causes 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.
- Mononucleosis most often occurs in people between 5-25 years of age, with the highest occurrence rate between 15-25 years of age.
- A small percentage of college students contract mononucleosis each year.
- In developed countries, it most often occurs in those of higher socioeconomic status.
- By adulthood, most people have already been infected with EBV.
- Not all individuals exposed to EBV, however, develop the symptoms of mononucleosis.
- Once infected, a person develops lifelong immunity to future infections from the disease.
- EBV has been associated with the development of certain cancers, such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma and Burkitt's lymphoma.
- EBV is transmitted through exposure to body fluids containing the virus.
- It is most often transmitted via saliva (hence the name "kissing disease").
- It can also be spread through blood and genital secretions.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017
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