Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono)

What is Infectious Mononucleosis?

Infectious Mononucleosis is more commonly known as “Mono”.  Infectious Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is a very contagious disease that is spread through saliva. Use of contaminated items such as unclean eating utensils, drinking glasses, and sharing food that someone may have already bitten into can easily cause spread the virus to spread. The disease appears more often in teens and young children. Young children can be exposed further to the disease through used of shared, unclean toys.

Chances of adults getting Infectious Mononucleosis are rare because they are more likely to have developed immunity to the virus by then. On rare occasions, adults with compromised autoimmune systems can contract the virus.

What are the Symptoms of Infectious Mononucleosis?

The symptoms of Infectious Mononucleosis can vary. Not everyone affected will carry each of the reported symptoms.

Symptoms include

  • Body aches
  • Sore and swollen feelings in the throat
  • Loss of appetite and energy

In more severe cases, a person might feel abdominal pain in the upper left side. This could mean that the spleen may be enlarged resulting in the potential for more serious problems to develop.

Infectious Mononucleosis Causes

Mono is caused by an infection of the Epstein-Barr virus, which is very easily spread through saliva. For this reason, the condition is often transmitted through kissing and is therefore referred to as the “kissing disease”.

It’s also possible for the Epstein-Barr virus to be transmitted via other bodily fluids, including blood and semen. For this reason, it’s possible to develop the condition after having sex with someone with the disease, or through blood transfusions or organ transplants. However, the latter two methods of transmission are relatively rare.

The Epstein-Barr virus can live harmlessly in the body in a dormant form. When dormant, it does not cause mono symptoms and isn’t contagious. However, it may reactivate for short periods and spread to others during this time. Many people have the Epstein-Barr virus in their body at one point or another, but not all of them get symptoms of mono. It isn’t fully understood why some people develop mono and others do not, despite having the virus.

How is Infectious Mononucleosis Treated?

Infectious Mononucleosis will pass over time even though some people may continue to feel tired over an extended period of months. Antibiotic medications have not shown to be of tremendous benefit in treatment. Common pain medications such as Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen and Naproxen can be used to treat body aches. Rest is a very important key to recovery. In more extreme cases of Mono, corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce the swelling of the throat and tonsils.

Infectious Mononucleosis Prevention

There is no definitive way to prevent mono, as no vaccine exists for the infection. However, you can reduce your risk of contracting mono by avoiding very close contact with individuals who have the infection. Do not kiss them, share food or drink with them, or share items which could come into contact with their saliva, such as toothbrushes or pens which may have been chewed.

Individuals with mono should not donate blood. Although it is relatively rare to spread the virus through blood, it is possible and the risk of transmission in this way should be minimized.

People with mono may be infectious for several weeks or even months after first being infected. They should therefore avoid close contact with others for the entirety of this time.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
January 25, 2018