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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Infectious Mononucleosis (Glandular Fever): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Mononucleosis, or infectious Mononucleosis or Glandular Fever, infers to a group of symptoms usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It commonly occurs in teenagers, but one can get it at any age. The virus is dissipated through saliva, which is why it’s widely referred to as “the kissing disease.

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Some people can develop Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infections as children, even at age 1. Young children are usually asymptomatic or can also display symptoms so mild that they aren’t recognized as Mononucleosis.

Once a person has an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, they are not likely to get another one. Every person who gets Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) as a child is expected to be immune to Mononucleosis for the rest of their lives.

Regardless, a plethora of children in the United States and other advanced countries don’t get these infections in their formative years.

But following findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), Mononucleosis happens 25 percent of the total times an adolescent or young adult is infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is why Mononucleosis primarily affect high schoolers and college students.

Mononucleosis symptoms

People affected with Mononucleosis frequently have a high fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph glands in the armpit and neck. Most cases of Mononucleosis are benign and treated easily with minimal treatment.

The disease is generally not severe and usually goes away on its own in 3 to 7 weeks.

Other symptoms may include:

Mononucleosis is challenging to differentiate from other ordinary viruses such as the flu. If one’s symptoms don’t improve after 1 or 2 weeks of home remedies like resting, constant intake of fluids, and eating healthy foods, one is advised to see a doctor.

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Mononucleosis incubation period

The incubation period of the virus is the period between when a person contracts the infection and when they start to develop symptoms. It lasts for 1- 2 months. The signs and symptoms of Mononucleosis typically linger for 1 to 2 months.

Although the incubation period may be shorter in young children, some symptoms, like sore throat and fever, generally disappear after 1 or 2 weeks, while other symptoms such as an enlarged spleen swollen lymph nodes and fatigue may linger for a few weeks longer.

Causes of Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The virus is circulated through direct contact with a bodily fluid like blood, urine, or saliva from the mouth of an infected person. It can also be contacted through sexual activities like oral sex and even organ transplantation.

A person can also be exposed to the virus by kissing, through a cough or sneeze, or by sharing food or beverages or water with someone who has Mononucleosis. It usually takes 1 to 2 months for signs and symptoms to develop after one is infected.

In adults and adolescents, the disease sometimes doesn’t cause pronounced symptoms, and also in children, the virus typically asymptomatic, and the infection can often go unrecognized.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)) is a close kin of the herpes virus family. And it’s inferred to be one of the most common viruses to infect humans around the world.

When a person becomes infected with EPSTEIN-BARR VIRUS (EBV), it will remain inactive in the body for the rest of their life. In unusual cases, it can reactivate, but they’re usually won’t be any symptoms.

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In addition to its connection with Mononucleosis, experts are looking into possible links between Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and conditions such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Mononucleosis is infectious, although professionals are not exactly sure how long this period lasts.

Because the virus sheds in the throat, an infected person can contaminate someone who comes into contact with their saliva, such as by kissing them or sharing eating utensils. Due to the long incubation period, one may not even be aware you have Mononucleosis.

Mononucleosis can go on to be contagious for three months or more after one experience the symptoms.

Mononucleosis risk factors

The following groups are at higher risk of getting Mononucleosis:

  • Anyone who frequently comes in close contact with large numbers of people is at a heightened risk. This is why college and high school students oftentimes get infected
  • Young adults or teenagers between the ages of 15 and 30
  • Nurses
  • People who take medications that can suppress the immune system
  • Medical interns
  • Students
  • Caregivers

How is Mononucleosis diagnosed?

Because other, more severe viruses such as hepatitis A can induce symptoms similar to Mononucleosis, the doctor will have to rule out these possibilities.

Initial exam

When one visits the doctor, they’ll generally ask how long one has been experiencing symptoms. And if the person is between the ages of 15 and 25, the doctor might also ask if they have been in contact with any individuals who have Mononucleosis.

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Age is one of the main factors taken into consideration when diagnosing Mononucleosis, along with the most popular symptoms like swollen glands, fever, and sore throat.

The doctor will take also measure one’ a temperature and check the glands in one’s groin, neck, and armpits. They might also have to check the upper left part of a person’s stomach to ascertain if the spleen is enlarged.

Complete blood count

Sometimes the doctor will order a complete blood count. This blood test will help us understand how severe the illness is by checking the levels of various blood cells. For instance, a high lymphocyte count always indicates an infection.

White blood cell count

A Mononucleosis infection will typically make the body to produce more white blood cells as it tries to fight the infection. A high white blood cell count can’t ascertain infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), but the result will suggest that it’s a strong possibility.

The Mono test

Lab tests are the following part of a doctor’s diagnosis. One of the most dependable ways to diagnose Mononucleosis is the Mono test, also called the heterophile test. This blood test looks for antibodies, which are protein the immune system generates in reaction to harmful elements present in the body.

However, it doesn’t look for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibodies. Rather, the Mono test deduces the levels of another group of antibodies the body is inclined to produce when infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and they are called heterophile antibodies.

The findings of this test are the most consistent when it’s carried out around the first month after symptoms of the infection appear. At this point, the body would have substantial amounts of heterophile antibodies to generate an accurate positive response.

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This test isn’t always correct, but it’s easy to do, and results are usually made available within an hour.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody test

If the Mono test comes back negative, the doctor might request an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody test. This blood test looks for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific antibodies. This test can detect Mononucleosis as early as the first-week one has symptoms, but it takes longer to get the results.

Mononucleosis treatment

There’s no particular treatment for infectious Mononucleosis. Nevertheless, the doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid medication to treat the throat and tonsil swelling. The indications usually resolve on their own in 1 to 2 months.

It is advisable that one should contact his/her doctor if symptoms get worse or if they develop intense abdominal pain.

Mononucleosis home remedies

These remedies are aimed at alleviating symptoms. They include using over-the-counter medicines to lessen fever and techniques to calm a sore throat, such as gargling saltwater.

Other home remedies that may reduce symptoms are:

  • getting as much rest as possible
  • staying hydrated, by drinking a lot of water and other fluids
  • eating warm chicken soup
  • boosting one’s immune system by eating foods that are anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants, such as salmons, brown rice, apples, and green vegetables
  • using over the counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) as one should never administer aspirin to children or teenagers because it could cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare disorder that can result in brain and liver damage.

Mononucleosis complications

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Mononucleosis is usually not serious. In some cases, people who have Mononucleosis develop secondary infections like strep throat, tonsillitis, or sinus infections. In some rare cases, some people may suffer the following complications:

An Enlarged spleen

One should wait at least one month before partaking in any strenuous activities, lifting heavy objects, or playing contact sports to avoid rupturing one’s spleen, which may be swollen from the infection.

Talk to one’s doctor about when you can return to one’s normal activities.

A ruptured spleen in people who have Mononucleosis is rare, but it is a life-threatening emergency. Call one’s doctor immediately if you have Mononucleosis and experience a sharp, sudden pain in the upper left part of one’s abdomen.

Inflammation of the liver

Hepatitis, which is liver inflammation or yellowing of the skin and eyes (Jaundice), may occasionally occur in people who have Mononucleosis.

Rare complications

Mononucleosis can also cause some of these extremely rare complications:

Inflamed tonsils that can obstruct breathing.

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Mononucleosis flare-up

Mononucleosis symptoms like fatigue, fever, and a sore throat usually last for 4 to 8 weeks. In complicated cases, the symptoms can flare up months or even years later.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which usually is what causes a Mononucleosis-infection, remains in one’s body for the rest of one’s life. It’s usually in an inactive state, but the virus can be reactivated.

Mononucleosis in adults

Mononucleosis mostly infects teenagers and young adults.

Although not prevalent in adults over the age of 30. Older adults with Mononucleosis will develop a fever but may not experience other symptoms such as an enlarged spleen, swollen lymph nodes, or sore throat.

Mononucleosis in children

Children can become infected with Mononucleosis by sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, or by being near an infected person who coughs or sneezes.

Because children may only have mild symptoms, like a sore throat, a Mononucleosis-infection may go undiagnosed.

Children who are diagnosed with Mononucleosis can usually continue to attend school or daycare. They may have to avoid some physical activities while they recover. Children with Mononucleosis should wash their hands frequently, especially after sneezing or coughing. Learn more about the Mononucleosis symptoms in children.

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Mononucleosis in toddlers

Most people are infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) early in life. As with older children, toddlers can become affected with Mononucleosis by sharing drinking glasses eating utensils. They can further become infected by putting toys in their mouths that have been in the mouths of other children with Mononucleosis.

Toddlers with Mononucleosis rarely have any signs. If they do develop a fever and sore throat, it may be taken for a cold or the flu.

If one’s doctor suspects one’s toddler has Mononucleosis, they will probably recommend that you make sure one’s child gets to rest and drinks plenty of fluids.

Mononucleosis relapse

Mononucleosis is usually caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which remains dormant in one’s body after you recover.

It’s possible, but unusual, for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) to become reactivated and for the symptoms of Mononucleosis to return months or years later. Get a better understanding of the risk of Mononucleosis relapse.

Mononucleosis recurring

Most people have Mononucleosis only once. In rare cases, the symptoms can recur due to a reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

If Mononucleosis returns, the virus is in one’s saliva, but you probably won’t have any symptoms unless you have a weakened immune system.

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In rare instances, Mononucleosis can lead to what’s called chronic active Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This is a serious condition in which the Mononucleosis symptoms persist longer than six months.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of Mononucleosis and have had it before, see one’s doctor.

Mononucleosis prevention

Scientists have not found ways to prevent Mononucleosis, so it is safe to conclude it’s impossible to prevent it. This is because people who have recovered from Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in the past usually still carry and can spread the infection periodically for the rest of their lives.

Every all adults have been infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and have developed up antibodies to fight the infection. People normally get Mononucleosis only once in their lives.

Outlook and recovery from Mononucleosis               

The symptoms of Mononucleosis rarely last for more than 4 to 8 weeks. The vast majority of people who have this infection recover within 3 to 7 weeks.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) establishes lifelong, inactive infection in one’s body’s immune system. In some very rare scenarios, people who carry Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) can get either nasopharyngeal carcinoma or Burkitt’s lymphoma, although both are rare types of cancers.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) seems to play a role in getting one of these cancers.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Jennifer Aigbini
I am a language enthusiast, studying Linguistics at the University of Benin, in Nigeria.

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