Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) Symptoms, Facts And Treatment
A highly infectious illness, Mono – or Infectious Mononucleosis – is very common. It was first diagnosed in the late 19th century and has been with us ever since. Also known as ‘Kissing Disease’ it is caused by passing on the infectious virus in the saliva. The virus is known as Epstien-Barr virus (EBV) and it is related to the herpes family of viruses. It can be quite serious and cause inflammation of the spleen and liver problems, but is also easy to treat and contain. Following we will look at the symptoms of mono, the problems associated with it and how to diagnose the disease, as well as treatment options and methods of prevention.
Symptoms Of Mono
As mono is so easy to contract it is somewhat difficult to diagnose in the first instance, especially as the symptoms can be similar to many other commonly found illnesses. Nevertheless, the following are all examples of symptoms of mono:
- Loss of appetite
- Listlessness and lack of energy
The above are the initial symptoms, those that signify the onset of Mono, and it is easy to see why it could be mistaken for a number of other illnesses. Following are the later symptoms, once the virus has taken hold:
- Persistent fever
- A very sore throat
- Swollen glands in the neck
While distinctive, these symptoms are also redolent of other illnesses, so if you suffer from a combination of any of these you should seek a proper medical diagnosis.
Before we look at Mono symptoms and diagnosis in more detail, a few facts about Mono:
- Mono is known as Kissing Disease as the virus is passed in the saliva
- It is not fatal, but can be very uncomfortable and lead to organ malfunction
- It can come about very quickly and is often passed off as a heavy cold
- It is related to herpes
- The virus can live on in the body after treatment
- Mono requires medical attention and proper treatment.
Now, let’s go into a bit more detail about the question: what is Mono?
What Is Infectious Mono?
Put simply, Mono is an illness brought about by the EBV virus, a common virus that is passed between us via saliva. It is a commonly seen illness that is well understood and can be successfully treated. It is also known as glandular fever, a term that you may be familiar with. The virus causes disruption among the vital white blood cells, and the result is the set of symptoms that are highlighted above. While unpleasant and uncomfortable it is rarely dangerous, but it can lead to complications in the liver and spleen.
The direct cause of Mono is the EBV virus; it is estimated that, by the time we reach our mid-30’s, 95% of us have already been infected with EBV. Our bodies naturally build up a resistance to it, and the presence of antibodies confirms this. The EBV virus is very common across the world, and is responsible for thousands of cases of Mono on an ongoing basis. Thankfully, the familiarity of the virus means it can be successfully treated.
As the EBV virus is so well developed it is difficult to treat it directly; it resists the best anti-viral drugs and is very hardy. A case of mono will generally run its course without danger – although there are a couple of possible complications – and treatment is therefore limited to keeping the patient comfortable. Headaches, aches and pains and such are treated with standard issue drugs, although it is advisable to avoid penicillin as it can cause allergic reactions in Mono patients.
The Risk Factors
The risk of contracting Mono is high as it is a very common virus, but the actual risks associated with the illness are very low. The main problems may stem from the enlarged spleen, and this is something that – if left unattended – can be life threatening. An enlarged spleen is more likely to rupture, and it is strongly advised that anyone who has suffered from mono avoids strenuous activities such as sport for some time afterwards, until they are sure the spleen is back to its correct size and strength.
How Is Mono Transmitted Or Spread?
Mono got its nickname ‘kissing disease’ as it is spread primarily by person to person transmission of saliva. The EBV virus is carried in the saliva and infects the second person. It can also be spread by coughs and sneezes, although this is less likely. Sharing drinks from the glass if an infected person can also spread the virus, and shared food likewise, and it can take four weeks for symptoms to show. However, as we said above, most of us have been exposed to the virus and have the correct antibodies already within, so getting a case of Mono is less likely.
How Is Mono Diagnosed?
If a doctor suspects a case of mono then blood tests will be carried out to confirm the diagnosis. As we have said earlier, glandular fever can resemble many other illnesses in its early form so it is vital these are eliminated. The laboratory will look for abnormalities in the blood and any signs of loss of liver function, and will use the symptoms and results to deduce the actual illness present.
What Are The Complications Of Mono?
The most common complication from mono is inflammation of the liver. While this is a minor problem, the enlarged spleen that often comes with Mono can be a major one. We have already explained how an enlarged spleen faces a greater chance of rupture, and how this can be fatal, so it is very important the spleen is carefully monitored, and that a recovery period is sensibly observed. Also, the swelling of the throat can cause problems, but it is rarely bad enough to be serious. Other serious but very rare complications include problems with the balance of red blood cells that can cause other illnesses, plus very rare cases of encephalitis-swelling on the brain. It is also noted that EBV is associated with certain cancers, but again the chances of this complication arising are very, very small indeed.
The old adage the prevention is the best cure applies when we talk of people who catch Mono, for there are steps that can be taken to minimise the risk. Of course, you already know that our natural immune system will have built up the suitable antibodies in most cases, so the chances of contracting the illness are suitably reduced. On the other hand, the fact that 95% of people have already been infected with the virus also renders it difficult to avoid, but if you know someone is infected and showing signs of it you should avoid personal and intimate contact. In most cases, you stand the risk of developing mild symptoms, and serious cases are increasingly uncommon.
We hope this article has helped you to understand why mononucleosis is a difficult illness to diagnose, the risks involved, and the steps you should take to minimise the risk, and also that it has allowed you to understand why allowing for full recovery is very important indeed.
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