What is the Connection Between Epstein-Barr and Mononucleosis?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Infectious mononucleosis is caused by exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Settling in the salivary glands, EBV may be passed from one person to another through bodily fluids, such as mucus and saliva. The incubation period for EBV is generally up to eight weeks from initial exposure to symptom presentation. Once an individual reaches adulthood, more than likely, he or she has been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus and developed antibodies that prevent him or her from showing mononucleosis symptoms.

A majority of individuals exposed to EBV remain asymptomatic for mononucleosis, meaning they experience no discernible signs or symptoms. The virus is generally contracted through kissing, sharing eating utensils, or drinking after someone with active EBV infection. Once an individual is exposed to EBV, it remains in his or her system for the rest of his or her life. Though an individual may remain asymptomatic, that does not mean the virus may not reactivate and be spread to others. Once they present themselves, mononucleosis symptoms will generally progress and necessitate a visit to a physician.


Individuals with Epstein-Barr and mononucleosis will usually undergo a physical examination that may detect abdominal distention, swollen lymph nodes, and tonsil inflammation. A diagnosis of Epstein-Barr and mononucleosis may be confirmed with the administration of a blood test. In the presence of active infection, one’s white blood cell count is elevated; therefore, symptomatic individuals may undergo a white blood cell test to verify the presence of infection. Additionally, an antibody test may be performed to check for antibodies that confirm the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus.

Individuals with Epstein-Barr and mononucleosis will generally have patterned, tell-tale signs of the illness. Pronounced fatigue, sore throat and fever are common. Symptomatic individuals will also usually develop swollen tonsils, abdominal distention due to spleen inflammation, and a loss of appetite. If a diagnosis of Epstein-Barr and mononucleosis is delayed or proper treatment for underlying infection is absent, serious complications may result, including jaundice, anemia, and impaired respiration due to a blocked airway.

Treatment for Epstein-Barr and mononucleosis is generally non-specific. Since mononucleosis is a viral infection, antibiotics are useless for its treatment. In most cases, symptomatic individuals are instructed to stay hydrated and get sufficient bed rest. If a secondary infection is present, such as strep throat, antibiotic medications may be administered. Those who develop pronounced swelling or a rash may be given a corticosteroid to alleviate inflammation and discomfort.


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