Infectious Mononucleosis

Overview of Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis is an infectious disease caused by Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). It is commonly known as “the kissing disease” because the virus is spread by saliva.

Signs and Symptoms of Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis (متعدی /Mataddi) is an infectious disease caused by Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). It is commonly known as “the kissing disease” because the virus is spread by saliva. It can also be spread by sharing food utensils. However, infectious mononucleosis is not contagious like other infectious diseases. Its symptoms vary from mild to severe. You may become unable to perform your daily activities for a couple of weeks. This condition is not serious but can cause complications if left untreated.

Occurrence of Infectious Mononucleosis

Usually, infectious mononucleosis affects all age groups but in children, it occurs after age 1. In young children, the symptoms are usually mild. If you have this infection once, then you’ll become immune to the virus for the rest of your life. It mostly affects high school and college students.

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Types of Infectious Mononucleosis

Some common signs and symptoms of mononucleosis are:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat, perhaps misdiagnosed as strep throat, that doesn't get better after treatment with antibiotics
  • Headache
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
  • Soft, swollen spleen
  • Swollen tonsils

The incubation period of the EBV virus is approximately 4-7 weeks. In young children, however, this period is shorter. Signs and symptoms such as a fever and sore throat usually go away after a couple of weeks, but weakness, inflamed lymph nodes and enlarged spleen may last for a longer period of time.


Risk Factors of Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis is most commonly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBR). However, it can also be caused by other viruses. EBV is spread by:

  • Saliva
  • Body fluid such as blood
  • Organ transplantation
  • Sexual contact
  • Cough or sneeze



Common risk factors of Infectious Mononucleosis are:

  • Nurses
  • Young people (ages range 15-30)
  • Medical interns
  • Students
  • Caregivers
  • People with a weakened immune system

Health-Related Complications of Infectious Mononucleosis

Health-related complications of infectious mononucleosis are serious such as:

  • Enlarged Spleen

In people with infectious mononucleosis, the spleen is usually enlarged. In this condition, the spleen is inflamed and ruptured. It is a rare but life-threatening complication. You should seek immediate medical treatment because it may require surgery.

  • Liver Related Problems

You can also develop liver-related problems with infectious mononucleosis such as:

  • Hepatitis (mild liver inflammation)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of eyes)

Some less common complications are:

  • Anemia (decrease in RBCs and hemoglobin level)
  • Thrombocytopenia (decrease in platelets, WBCs involved in blood clotting)
  • Heart problems (inflammation of the heart muscles knowns as myocarditis)
  • Nervous system problems (meningitis, encephalitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome)
  • Swollen tonsils (block breathing)


Preventing infectious mononucleosis is difficult because people carry the virus even after recovery for the rest of their lives.

Treatment of Infectious Mononucleosis | When to Consult a Doctor

  • Physical Examination

Your doctor will inquire about the signs and symptoms of mononucleosis. Physical examination is performed to look for signs and symptoms such as:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Tonsils
  • Blood Tests:

  • White Blood Cell Count: A complete blood count (CBC) is performed to check the number of white blood cells (WBC) or abnormal-looking lymphocytes. These don’t confirm the infection but suggest infectious mononucleosis as a possibility.
  • Antibody Tests: Monospot test/Heterophile test is an antibody test that is performed for the confirmation of infectious mononucleosis. In this test, specific proteins called heterophile antibodies are identified. These antibodies are produced in response to ESV by the immune system. The results for this test are obtained within a day. However, the antibodies can’t be detected in the first week of infection.

Doctors to treat Infectious Mononucleosis

Last updated on Tuesday 29/11/2022


Dr. Zeeshan Ali

Gastroenterologist | FCPS, MCPS, MBBS

Park Lane HospitalRs 3000


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