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Mononucleosis (or Glandular Fever) – the facts

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What causes it?

Most cases of mono are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV was discovered in the 1960s and named after the two scientists who identified it. It is a member of the herpes family of viruses and extremely widely spread. Health Scout claims that as many as 95% of Americans aged 35 to 40 could be infected.

Sometimes, mono can be caused by other viruses, such as cytomegalovirus or rubella, according to the NHS. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can cause symptoms that are similar to glandular fever.

Mono is very infectious, so it is easy to contract it by doing the following with someone who is infected:

It is said that adolescents and young adults are most at risk of contracting the illness that any other age group, with the incidence rate peaking at 15-17 years, according to Medicine Net. Young children may also contract mono, but symptoms tend to be less severe and often mimic other childhood illnesses, which may explain why it is less commonly diagnosed.

What are the symptoms?

Initial symptoms of mono include:

These then progress into more severe symptoms, including:

The sore throat and fever should subside within two weeks but the swollen lymph nodes and tiredness could linger for several months.

Occasionally, mono can affect the liver, leading to jaundice (the yellowing of skin and eyes) and mild inflammation. These usually pass when the illness does.

How is it treated?

At present, there is no cure for mono, but there are a number of self-help techniques that can help to control and improve symptoms. The NHS outlines these:

What complications could there be?

Mono sometimes causes the spleen to swell up, which is not an immediate danger, but does increase the risk of it being ruptured. The chances of this happening are very small but if it does, the sufferer will experience a sharp abdominal pain and is advised to seek emergency medical assistance immediately.

In a very small number of cases, the initial infection spreads to other parts of the body, leading to a more serious secondary infection, which may include:

Secondary infection usually only happens to those who have a weakened immune system caused by HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy, for example.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

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