Definition

What is Epstein-Barr virus infection?

Epstein-Barr virus infection is a type of disease caused by Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes mononucleosis. You might know this disease better by its nickname, “mono.” Additionally, it’s also known as the “kissing disease” due to one way you can spread it to someone else.

Even though Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) isn’t a household name, you’ve probably been infected without knowing it. Lots of people carry the virus but don’t get sick.

How common is Epstein-Barr virus infection?

According to Boston Children’s Hospital, approximately 95 percent of adults between 35 and 40 years of age have been infected with EBV at some point in their lives. The virus typically causes no symptoms in children. In adolescents and adults, it causes an illness called infectious mononucleosis, or mono, in about 35 to 50 percent of the cases

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Epstein-Barr virus infection?

Once EBV has a chance to attack your body, symptoms can take 4 to 6 weeks to manifest. When they do, they’re often mild at the beginning of the stage, especially in young children. Kids’ symptoms may be more like those of a cold or flu. Teens often have more obvious symptoms of mono.

If you do get symptoms, most likely some signs and symptoms that you may experience, include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Weakness and sore muscles

Usually you should start feeling better after 2 to 4 weeks, but the fatigue can stick around much longer. You may still feel tired a couple of months later.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Epstein-Barr virus infection?

The virus is found in saliva, so you can catch mono through some following ways:

  • Kissing someone who’s infected
  • Drinking from the same glass
  • Using an infected person’s toothbrush

It’s also found in blood and semen, so it’s possible to get mono from sex, a blood transfusion, or an organ transplant.

You don’t have to be sick to pass the virus to someone else. EBV stays in your body long after you get over mono. The virus can become active again months or years later, making you contagious once more.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Epstein-Barr virus infection?

There are many risk factors for Epstein-Barr virus infection, such as:

  • Being female
  • Living in tropical countries
  • Being sexually active

 

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Epstein-Barr virus infection diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed. He might find signs that you have mono, such as an enlarged spleen, an organ in your belly that filters blood. Your doctor will also check to see if you have a swollen liver and some white patches on your tonsils. However, it is hard to tell whether you have mononucleosis just by your symptoms. Fever, fatigue, and sore throat could also be signs of other illnesses, like the flu or a cold.

You may also need to get some blood tests. One test looks for antibodies, substances your immune system makes in response to the EBV virus. Another test looks for a type of white blood cell your body uses to fight off the EBV infection.

 

How is Epstein-Barr virus infection treated?

Like other viruses, Epstein-Barr can’t be treated with antibiotics. Mono should clear up on its own without treatment in a few weeks.

Though no medicine can treat an EBV infection, you can take these some steps at home to ease your symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink a lot of water and other liquids to stay hydrated.
  • Suck on lozenges or ice pops, or gargle with warm salt water, to make your sore throat feel better.
  • Take painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring down fever and relieve body aches. (Don’t give aspirin to children under 19 years of age because of the risk of a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.)
  • Ease back into work or school, taking things slowly until you feel better. For a month or so, avoid sports, heavy lifting, or other vigorous activities in which you could injure your spleen. Avoid potential trauma to the spleen, including contact sports, for at least one month or until the spleen is no longer enlarged, whichever is longer.

 

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Epstein-Barr virus infection?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Epstein-Barr virus infection:

  • No vaccine can protect you against the EBV virus. The best way to avoid catching it is to stay away from anyone who has mono.
  • Don’t share any items, including glasses, silverware, and toothbrushes, with someone who is infected.
  • You also should avoid kissing or having sex with an infected person.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 15, 2017 | Last Modified: August 15, 2017

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