Infectious mononucleosis or the kissing disease is a viral illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
The Epstein-Barr or EB virus causes mononucleosis. It belongs to the Herpesviridaefamily. It has specific tropism for the oropharynx and for B lymphocytes. It also infects the ganglia where the virus may remain latent.
Transmission of mononucleosis
The disease is transmitted by saliva, hence its other name, the kissing disease. The disease usually develops in childhood or adolescence. More than 80% of adults are believed to carry the disease, 20% of whom excrete the virus asymptomatically.
Symptoms of mononucleosis
The infection is often asymptomatic. The first signs of the disease are extreme tiredness and mild fever. The initial symptoms of painful throat, neck ganglia, and inflamed tonsils are often confused with pharyngitis. The spleen also often increases in volume. Blood tests show a mononucleosis syndrome with an increase in the number of basophilic lymphocytes.
The disease recovers spontaneously over a few days although convalescence (tiredness) may last for several weeks. Complications are occasionally seen, with damage to the main organs.
Treatment of mononucleosis
Treatment involves symptomatic management, a recommendation to rest, and analgesics for pain.
Mononucleosis causes extreme tiredness. © Fabiana Zonca, Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0