Infectious mononucleosis (mono) is caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), a relative of herpes. The disease is most common in people under 30 years of age and is common worldwide. Almost all (90-100%) adults have been exposed and have antibodies, whereas young people remain susceptible (Handin, Lux & Stossel, 2003). This is why the disease manifests primarily in young people, and especially those who share rooms or live in crowded conditions like dormitories. Hygiene is a factor, too, with the rate of infection among children under the age of ten living in developing countries significantly higher than children under the age of ten in economically developed nations. Because the disease is carried on saliva, and because saliva interchange is the most common mode of transmission, mononucleosis is commonly called the “kissing disease.” However, the disease can be transmitted via close contact without kissing (Evans & Kaslow, 1997). By the age of ten, 30-40% of American children will have been infected, with higher rates of infection occurring in the 15-24 age bracket. In addition to saliva, blood transfusions may transmit the virus (Evans & Kaslow, 1997).

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Mononucleiosis is a broad spectrum illness with a wide variety of symptoms and potential complications. Among the more serious complications include lymphoma families and carcinomas (Handin, Lux & Stossel, 2003) as well as severe pneumonitis (Gibbons, Peters & Seaton, 2005). Serious complications remain relatively rare, with the majority of sufferers experiencing fever, swollen glands, rashes, achiness, sore throat, and a characteristic feature, extreme fatigue. Sour throat usually manifests early and later subsides, but overall, symptoms can last for up to a month, and rarely lasts for less than two weeks. There are no pharmacological treatment interventions to address generalized symptoms. Only severe symptoms like airway passage obstruction may require substances like corticosteroids. Antibiotics do not have any efficacy on the treatment of mono. Because the symptoms of mononucleosis resemble those of a variety of problems, diagnosis is often made in conjunction with the current prevalence rate in the community and the use of blood testing.

Although mononucleosis is a DNA virus, there is no evidence yet that it is more prevalent among certain blood types (Evans & Kaslow, 1997). Interestingly, research shows that certain psychological and sociological features may be associated with increased risk of symptom manifestation. Those risk factors include overachievement and perfectionism (Evans & Kaslow, 1997). However, such investigations into ancillary risk factors have not necessarily been replicated.


Evans, A.S. & Kaslow, R.A. (1997). Viral Infectionsof Humans. New York: Plenum.

Gibbons, M.A., Peters, S.E. & Seaton, R.A. (2005). Severe pneumonitis complicating Epstein-Barr virus infection. Respiratory Medicine Extra 1(4): 104-106.

Handin, R.I., Lux, S.E. & Stossel, T.P. (2003). Blood. Philadelphia: Lippincott.