Often called the “kissing disease,” the virus that causes mononucleosis (mono for short) is spread through an infected person’s saliva. However, smooches are just one part of the story.
Mono doesn’t only strike love-struck teenagers and young adults – it can occur at any age. For instance, younger children may catch mono by sharing toys, cups, and the like.
Read on to learn the many ways that mono can spread, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you have symptoms. (Hint: vybe can help!)
Infectious mono is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is one of the most common viruses in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least one out of four teenagers and young adults who get infected with EBV will develop mono.
Most people are infected with EBV before they reach adulthood, often without any noticeable symptoms. Those who do experience symptoms typically take 2-4 weeks to recover (although it can take several weeks or longer). Symptoms may include:
The good news: most people only get mono caused by EBV once. After you are infected, the virus becomes latent (or inactive) in your body for the rest of your life. However, sometimes mono symptoms can return months or even years later.
The mono virus spreads primarily through saliva and other bodily fluids.
There is no vaccine for mono, so the best way to prevent mono is to steer clear of anyone who is infected. The virus can stay in the saliva of an infected person for many months, even after they have recovered – so be sure to kiss with caution.
While kissing is a common way to transmit the mono virus, there are many others to consider as well. Mono is contagious by air (via airborne droplets) and by direct contact with infected saliva. Some examples of non-kissing interactions that can spread the illness include:
Don’t share items with others and wash your hands often to reduce your chances of getting infected.
Yes. People who have mono can be contagious as soon as they’re infected—before they even know they have the virus. It can take 1-2 months for mono symptoms to appear and some people never get symptoms at all. However, they can still pass it on to others.
People with active symptoms are contagious, but no one knows exactly how long they stay contagious after their symptoms are gone. Again, the mono virus stays in the body for life. So it can reappear at any time, with or without symptoms.
A mononucleosis spot test (or monospot) uses a blood sample to check for two types of antibodies in the blood that appear during or after a mono. If the monospot is positive, it’s very likely that you have mono. If it’s negative, your provider may need to repeat the test in 1-2 weeks, as it’s possible the test was performed too soon after the illness started.
A healthcare provider may also request a complete blood count (CBC) to check your lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that shows specific changes when you have mono.
Antibiotics will not be prescribed, as they’re not used in treating viruses. Instead, your treatment plan will include:
If your lymph nodes or tonsils are swollen to the point that they interfere with your breathing, a healthcare provider may prescribe steroid medication.
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