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What is infectious mononucleosis?

Infectious mononucleosis, also known as mononucleosis, “mono,” or glandular fever, is characterized by swollen lymph glands and chronic fatigue.

What causes infectious mononucleosis?

Infectious mononucleosis is either caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or the cytomegalovirus, both of which are members of the herpes simplex virus family. Consider the following statistics:

  • In the US, almost 95 percent of adults between 35 and 40 years old have been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, which is a very common virus. When children are infected with the virus, they usually do not experience any noticeable symptoms. However, uninfected adolescents and young adults who come in contact with the virus may develop infectious mononucleosis in nearly 35 to 50 percent of exposures.
  • The cytomegalovirus is actually a group of viruses in the herpes simplex virus family that often cause cells to enlarge. Most healthy persons who become infected with the CMV virus after birth have few, if any, symptoms and have no long-term effects on their health.
  • The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may cause infectious mononucleosis in adolescents and young adults. However, even after the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis have disappeared, the EBV will remain dormant in the throat and blood cells during that person’s lifetime. The virus can reactivate periodically, however, usually without symptoms.
Treatment for infectious mononucleosis:

Treatment for mononucleosis may include:

  • rest for about one month (to give the body’s immune system time to destroy the virus)
  • corticosteroids (to reduce swelling of the throat and tonsils)