Infectious Mononucleosis: The kissing disease

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mononucleosis. Signs and symptoms of infectious mononucleosis. Human silhouette with internal organs. glandular fever, Pfeiffer's disease or Filatov's disease

What is infectious mononucleosis?

Infectious mononucleosis is often referred to as the “kissing disease” as it spreads primarily through saliva. It is often reported in young adults and teens but can occur at any age. It is also known as mono, mononucleosis and glandular fever.

Causes

Though other viruses also can cause Infectious mononucleosis, it is mainly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Classically, the virus spreads commonly through body fluids, particularly saliva. Also, these viruses can also spread through semen, blood, and organ transplantation as well.

Risk Groups

Individuals at a risk of getting infectious mononucleosis include:

  • People of age group 15-30 years
  • Medical staff
  • Caregivers
  • Individuals taking medication for suppressing their immune system

Symptoms

Characteristic symptoms of infectious mononucleosis become evident after 4 to 6 weeks after infection with EBV.  Often the symptoms can develop slowly and may not be evident, all at the same time.  The symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Swollen lymph glands

Sometimes, the spleen and the liver may swell. Sporadically, the symptoms can last for six months or beyond.

Diagnosis

Based on the symptoms, your doctor will diagnose infectious mononucleosis. Your doctor will look for swollen lymph glands, spleen or liver and may order the following tests:

Epstein-Barr Virus  Antibodies Test:  Your blood will be tested for the presence of antibodies to the EBV

Complete blood count: To check for atypical white blood cell count.

Treatment

There is no particular treatment for infectious mononucleosis. This infection, being viral in nature, antibiotics are not used here, notably, amoxicillin and derivatives of penicillin, as they can lead to rashes. Some measures to relieve the symptoms include staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and rest.

Your doctor may prescribe specific medicines to address secondary infection and pain.

Prevention

No vaccines are available against infectious mononucleosis. Ways of protection from this infection include not kissing or sharing food, drinks or personal items with individuals having infectious mononucleosis.

Complications

Complications include:

  • Spleen enlargements
  • Problems of the liver – hepatitis or jaundice
  • Rarely anaemia, meningitis and troubled breathing can occur

Next Steps

Do not participate in contact sports until cleared by your doctor. The spleen can enlarge temporarily, and the spleen can rupture easily and lead to internal bleeding and abdominal pain and fever.

Red Flags

Seek emergency medical support if you notice sharp pain suddenly over the left side of the upper abdomen. It can be due to ruptured spleen requiring immediate surgery.

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