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Mononucleosis and Epstein-Barr Virus

What is Mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis, also called “mono”, is a contagious infection that is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It is common among teenagers and young adults, especially college students. Mono is spread through contact with saliva, mucus from the nose and throat, and sometimes through blood and semen.

What are the symptoms?

Typical symptoms of infectious mononucleosis usually appear four to six weeks after you get infected with EBV. Symptoms may develop slowly and may not all occur at the same time. These symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Head and body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
  • Swollen liver or spleen or both
  • Rash

Most people get better in two to four weeks; however, some people may feel fatigue for several more weeks. Occasionally, the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis can last for six months or longer.

How is Mono treated?

MThere is no vaccine to protect against infectious mononucleosis. You can protect yourself by not kissing or sharing drinks, food, or personal items, like toothbrushes, with people who have mono. Home treatment to relieve symptoms is usually all that is needed:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Manage fever and pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Read and follow all instructions on the label.


If you have infectious mononucleosis, you should not take penicillin antibiotics like ampicillin or amoxicillin.

Because your spleen may become enlarged due to infectious mononucleosis, you should avoid contact sports until you fully recover. Participating in contact sports can be strenuous and may cause the spleen to rupture.

Make sure to contact your doctor and notify them of your health condition

Call 9-1-1 anytime if you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out
  • You have new or worsening belly pain
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded
  • You are severely dehydrated and cannot swallow liquids

You can learn more about Mono by visiting the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Website