Health Topics and Alerts
What is Mononucleosis?
Mononucleosis (mono) is an illness caused by infection with a virus. The Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) is the usual cause of infectious mono. Infection with other viruses, like the cytomegalovirus (CMV) can also produce a mono-like illness. Mono is an illness mainly of adolescents and young adults. Generally, people only get mono once.
What are the symptoms?
People most often experience a painful sore throat with swollen tonsils and white patches on the back of the throat. Mono will also typically cause fever, headache, feeling tired, swollen glands in the neck, and not feeling hungry.
How is Mono diagnosed?
There is no medicine to cure mono. Since mono is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Your immune system will help you to recover.
During the acute stage of this illness, measures can be taken to relieve the symptoms:
- Analgesics such as acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) can help relieve throat pain and fever
- Lozenges or topical sprays such as Chloraseptic can decrease your sore throat discomfort
- Drinking adequate fluids, 6-8 glasses a day, is important
- Obtain necessary rest
- Do not take aspirin
Is Mono contagious?
Although mono is contagious, it is not spread as easily as some other viruses, such as the common cold. The mono virus is found in saliva and mucus. It is usually passed from one person to another through kissing, although it may rarely be passed in other ways, such as coughing. Signs of mono usually develop 4-7 weeks after you're exposed to the virus. Studies have shown the roommates of mono patients rarely acquire the disease because the virus is an agent of low contagiousness. However, it is still wise during acute illness to avoid kissing, sharing food, drinks or eating utensils.
How long can I expect to be ill?
Most symptoms usually decrease in 7-10 days. Lymph node swelling and fatigue generally persist up to 2-4 weeks. Some patients may take longer to recover (up to 2-3 months). Your activity should be determined by your energy level and personal tolerance. Contact sports and weight lifting should be avoided for 4 weeks after the infection starts.
Does Mono have any complications?
Enlargement of the spleen (located under your left rib cage) and inflammation of the liver can occur with mono. An enlarged spleen is vulnerable to injury; therefore contact sports or weight lifting should be avoided for 4 weeks . Rupture of the spleen, a rare but potentially serious complication, can occur. The development of severe pain under the left rib cage requires immediate medical evaluation.
Inflammation of the liver, "mono hepatitis," is another uncommon complication. This can cause jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the eyes and skin. Alcohol may need to be avoided for as much as a year after illness because of the possible damage to liver cells. Even if jaundice does not occur, it is wise to avoid alcohol for 3 months after the illness.
Can you get mono again?
There is little evidence of repeated episodes of mono.
What about chronic EBV syndrome?
EBV has not been shown to have a significant relationship to an illness described as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is not a single disease, but rather a complex set of potentially related symptoms. This syndrome is not associated with the acute infectious process of mono.