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What is mononucleosis

Abstract (summary)

 Symptoms include fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes, mostly in the neck area. Fatigue can also be part of it because when you get mono you're run down, your immune system is down, which is why you feel so tired. One of the things about mono is that it can present with many different forms. It's very commonly confused with strep throat or tonsillitis caused by the bacteria, streptococcus. A lot of people end up going on antibiotics for mono because the doctor might initially think it's strep throat. Strep throat responds very quickly to antibiotics, so if you go on it and you don't get better, often it's because you actually have mononucleosis.

 

 

Mononucleosis or mono is an infection caused by the EBV (Epstein- Barr virus) virus that you catch from other people. An old term for mono is "the kissing disease" ... (because) it's spread like a cold, usually through close contact, so by kissing, sharing the same drinking cup, living with someone and getting coughed on (though mono is not as contagious as colds). You're not going to catch it sitting beside someone. 

 

 People worry they're going to catch mono from someone who is sick at the time, but most of the spread of mono is from people who have had it and shed the virus long after, which is common with many viral infections actually. 

 

 Mono can hit anyone at any age and everybody will get mono at some point in time. 

 

 Statistics show 95 per cent of adults test positive for the EBV virus, which means 95 per cent of adults have had mono. 

 

 Most people get mono when they're babies; they don't even get diagnosed with it -- they're just sick for a week and that's it. 

 

 Kids, generally, don't seem to get as sick when they get it. Teenagers will get it, and they'll be sick for a couple of months with the fatigue. The older you are, the more sick you get, though I've had some patients that are fine two weeks later and others who are still not feeling well after three months. 

 

 I see a couple of cases of mono a month, physicians at walk-in clinics probably see more. 

 

 Symptoms include fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes, mostly in the neck area. Fatigue can also be part of it because when you get mono you're run down, your immune system is down, which is why you feel so tired. One of the things about mono is that it can present with many different forms. It's very commonly confused with strep throat or tonsillitis caused by the bacteria, streptococcus. A lot of people end up going on antibiotics for mono because the doctor might initially think it's strep throat. Strep throat responds very quickly to antibiotics, so if you go on it and you don't get better, often it's because you actually have mononucleosis. 

 

 You can't do anything for mono, but you can treat the symptoms; if someone has a fever, you can give them something to bring the fever down. 

 

 One of the potential side effects of mono is an enlarged spleen: 50 per cent of patients with acute, infectious mono develop an enlarged spleen. So people who are involved in extremely high-risk sports such as football, rugby, hockey or activities such as skiing or snowboarding, anything where there's risk of falls, should consult their physician because there is a risk of splenic rupture, and you can die. 

 

 Certainly, early in the illness -- the highest risk is in the first three weeks after they get sick -- they need to stop these activities. 

 

 I know a lot of people think mono is a pretty scary disease, but it's not really going to cause you any problems unless you go out and play rugby. 

 

 Once you've had mono, you should not get it again, if you have a good functioning immune system. 

 

 Dr. Allan McDonald is a family physician in St. Albert