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Definition of Mononucleosis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Mononucleosis: Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV, human herpesvirus 4, HHV-4) in which there is an increase of white blood cells that have a single nucleus (monocytes). The infection can be spread by saliva. Its incubation period is four to eight weeks. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, sore throat, and swollen lymph glands. Mononucleosis can cause liver inflammation (hepatitis) and spleen enlargement; vigorous contact sports should be avoided to prevent spleen rupture. It is less severe in young children.

Most people exposed to EBV do not develop mononucleosis: most adults carry an antibody against EBV in their blood, meaning they have been infected with EBV at some time. Treatment includes rest, pain medication, and in some cases anti-viral medication.

Also known as mono, the kissing disease. See also Epstein-Barr virus.

Infectious Mononucleosis Symptoms and Signs
Infectious Mononucleosis Symptoms and Signs
Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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