Mononucleosis, also known as “mono”, is a contagious infection that in most cases is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). However, other viruses can also cause infectious mononucleosis, including HIV, hepatitis A, B, or C, and the German measles (rubella). This infection is common in children, teens, young adults, and people in college. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), 1 in 4 college students carries the EBV virus that causes mono. It is transmitted via saliva, blood, and other body fluids. You can get mononucleosis from kissing someone who has the virus and by sharing cups, utensils, and toothbrushes. Infectious mononucleosis takes around four to six weeks to show symptoms after you have been infected. In children, the symptoms may show up quicker. The virus usually clears up on its own in two to four weeks. In some people, the symptoms and fatigue may last up to six months or longer depending on how well your immune system is functioning. The good news is that if you get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and eat healthily, you will recover from the infection and your life will be back to normal before you know it.
If you are a teen or young adult, you are more likely to experience many of the signs and symptoms of mono. Young children may become infected and not show any signs and symptoms or such slight symptoms that the virus goes undiagnosed. The symptoms of infectious mononucleosis include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Feeling unwell
- Sore throat (often thought to be strep)
- Swelling of the tonsils
- High fever
- Swollen lymph nodes (especially in the neck and armpits)
- Head and body aches
- Tender swollen spleen
Mononucleosis can mimic many other illnesses. If you were diagnosed with strep or any other illness with these symptoms and they do not go away within two weeks, see your doctor to be tested for mono. In some cases, people with mono may develop an enlarged spleen and a swollen liver after the fatigue symptom goes away. Be sure to tell your doctor if any new tenderness shows up after you feel you have recovered.