The Kissing Virus: How contagious is Mono?

February 24, 2022

Infectious mononucleosis, sometimes called “mono” or the “kissing virus”, is an illness that affects teens and young adults but can also present in children. Mono is most often caused by the Epstein-Bar virus (EBV), a virus so common that 90% of Americans are infected by the age of 35.

Having EBV does not mean you will develop mono as many people are only carriers of the virus and never exhibit symptoms. Approximately one out of every four teenagers who are infected with EBV will develop mononucleosis, so it is important to know the symptoms of the disease and what to do if you think you or someone you love has mono.

Transmission of EBV

EBV is highly contagious and most often spread though bodily fluids, especially saliva. You may get infected with EBV due to:

  • Kissing
  • Sharing food and drinks
  • Sharing cups, utensils, or toothbrushes

Once in your body, EBV becomes dormant, but it can reactivate and cause you to become sick or develop infectious mononucleosis.

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How do you know if it’s mono?

“The symptoms of infectious mononucleosis usually appear within four to six weeks of being infected with the Epstein-Bar virus,” said Texas MedClinic Chief Operations Officer and practicing physician Dr. David Gude. “It’s important to know that symptoms may develop slowly, and they may not all be present at the same time.”

Symptoms of infectious mononucleosis may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Exhaustion/fatigue
  • Body aches and headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck/armpits
  • Swollen liver and/or spleen
  • Rash

Mono is usually diagnosed by a doctor based on a patient’s symptoms. Lab tests aren’t usually necessary to diagnose infectious mononucleosis but may be used if someone has an atypical case of mono.

Is there a vaccine for Mono?

No. There is no vaccine to protect against mononucleosis.

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How do you avoid getting sick?

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid kissing, sharing food or drinks, and sharing personal items like toothbrushes with people who may have infectious mononucleosis.

What is the treatment for Mono?

As is the case with many viral illnesses, your best treatment is time. The virus usually runs its course within 2 – 4 weeks. In the meantime, you can treat the symptoms of mono by:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Staying hydrated
  • Taking over-the-counter medications for fever and aches
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