Epstein Barr Virus, or more commonly, EBV is a member of the herpevirus family. EBV infections occur worldwide and most people have or will become infected at some point in their life.
Typically, children contract the Epstein Barr Virus and no symptoms are ever present. In some cases the symptoms will bear the resemblance of a very minor cold. Once infected, the Epstein Barr Virus will lie dormant in the infected persons blood cells for the remainder of their life.
Occasionally the dormant Epstein Barr Virus will reactivate. During this period of reactivation, the virus can be transmitted. Those individuals who contract EBV later in life will experience what is known as infectious mononucleosis. Infectious mononucleosis is also known as “mono” or the “kissing disease.” The symptoms of mono include fever, sore throat, swollen glands, and extreme fatigue.
EBV is not normally spread through air or blood, rather it is transmitted through contact with an infected person’s saliva. This contact includes kissing, sharing food or drinks, and eating utensils. Carriers of the Epstein Barr Virus never know they are infected which make it impossible to prevent.
There are no known treatments for mono symptoms nor are there any vaccinations. Occasionally doctors will prescribe steroids for swelling of the throat and tonsils. A laboratory test must be performed to truly know if an individual has infectious mononucleosis. Other than that, symptoms of mono will go away on their own. Symptoms usually disappear in four to six weeks and rarely last longer than this.
Mono has not been known to cause problems during pregnancy. There are however two very rare diseases that EBV has been connected with. Burkitt’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma are forms of cancer not normally found in the United States. Epstein-Barr Virus is not the primary cause of these malignant diseases rather a contributing factor.