Epstein-barr Virus Infection (Mononucleosis)

Epstein – Barr infection is a viral infection seen in children and young adults characterized by fever, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and an enlarged spleen. The symptoms may be very mild in younger children; indistinguishable from any other viral upper respiratory infection and resolves quickly. Young adults can have more pronounced symptoms which last longer. A minority may even have prolonged periods of fatigue.

There is an association between Epstein- Barr virus and African burkitts lymphoma, nasopharyngeal cancer, as well as lymphoma in HIV and transplant recipients.

Where does it occur?

Worldwide.

How is it transmitted?

It is commonly spread from person to person via saliva during kissing or among children while playing with toys in their mouth and sharing. It can also be transmitted through blood transfusions.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is contagious from person to person through contact with the saliva of an infected person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms usually develop within 4-6 weeks of exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Younger children may have no symptoms or just mild fever and rash. Older children and young adults develop a high fever, severe sore throat with pus on the tonsils, swollen glands of the neck, body aches, a red rash and an enlarged spleen.

Individuals who take penicillin antibiotics usually develop a red rash as well.

Most symptoms resolve in days to weeks, but a small percentage may take months to fully recover.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Blood counts show an increased lymphocytosis and blood antibody tests are available.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is supportive with fluids, Tylenol, NSAIDS and perhaps steroids in severe cases to decrease swelling of the tonsils and lymph glands.

What preventive measures can be taken?

No specific preventive measures are effective.

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