Health Talk: Mononucleosis

Those who often share food or kisses should be aware of the possible dangerous consequences.
Mononucleosis, also known as the “kissing disease” or “mono,” is an infectious disease most commonly transmitted through saliva. Although this disease is not considered to be a danger in most developed nations, possible complications from mono could cause anyone a large amount of trouble.

Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, although there have been cases that have been caused by the cytomegalovirus, a member of the Herpesviridae family. The Epstein-Barr virus is similar to the chicken pox virus; after infection, the antibodies remain in the immune system for life. Adolescents and young adults are the most susceptible to infection.

To test for mono, doctors check a patient’s complete blood count and measure antibody levels. They look for higher than average white blood cell counts, which can indicate an infection. Sometimes, however, screening is not very accurate and repeated tests are needed.
Once infected, the first symptoms that someone will experience are fatigue, headaches, and a sore throat. The differences between having a common cold and mono however, are a swollen spleen and extreme fatigue, and usually the cold-like symptoms last longer than two weeks.

Although unlikely, there are times when serious complications can arise from a case of mono. One of these is a swollen spleen, which if ruptured, can cause agonizing pain. The best course of action for this life-threatening condition is to immediately seek medical attention. Other lasting side effects include jaundice, complications with the immune system, and anemia.

It is important to avoid contact sports and alcohol while sick. Contact sports such as wrestling and football could rupture a swollen spleen.
Similar to the common cold, there is currently no treatment for the disease itself; there are only medications for its side effects. According to Health Services assistant physician Brenda Miller, there is no medicine better than a good night’s rest. “Rest, physical rest, and common sense. You want to avoid going out and kissing anyone, you want to wash your hands, and if you are coughing, you want to cover your mouth when you cough.”

Mono is also likely to mimic the effects of strep throat. A sore throat and fatigue, said Miller, are the most common complaints she hears from students. “Most of our cases of mono are [in] the acute phase, [and] come in with fever, swollen glands, and incredibly sore throats. They’re [also] exhausted, often dehydrated, and very occasionally malnourished because they have liver involvement or because they’re nauseated and having a hard time eating.”

Although less infectious than the common cold, mono is not any less pleasant. As sophomore Andre Hersan said, “I was a lot more tired than [when I had] the common cold, it was one of the only times I threw up in my life. I remember missing school [and] barely eating. I was sick for close to a month.”

Despite the lasting side effects, most people infected with mono do not have to change their routines that much. The Mayo Health Clinic states that most people will be up and running within a couple weeks, as long as they rest, drink plenty of water, and take pain medication.

Roommates do not have to worry much; the virus is only spread via saliva. As long as no food is shared, there is no need for concern.
For those who may think they have more than a cold, testing is available at Health Services in Morewood.