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Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis is not a reportable disease in Oklahoma; however, the Oklahoma State Department of Health investigates outbreaks of Monocucleosis to control the spread of this disease.  Mononucleosis is a viral illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).  Epstein-Barr virus is a member of the herpes virus family. Mononucleosis occurs worldwide, and most people become infected with EBV sometime during their lives. In the United States, approximately 95% of adults at least 40 years of age have been infected. Anyone can be infected with the EBV, but very few develop illness. In the United States, illness usually occurs among teenagers and young adults. When infection with EBV occurs during adolescence or young adulthood, it causes infectious mononucleosis in 35% to 50% of individuals.

Symptoms of illness include fever, sore throat, swollen glands, and a feeling of tiredness.  Mononucleosis usually last for several weeks, but can persist for several months. Very young children may not develop any symptoms after being infected or may experience symptoms indistinguishable from other mild viral diseases. If a person develops symptoms, they usually appear four to six weeks after infection with the virus.

The virus is spread from person to person by saliva (on hands, toys, or by kissing). Both ill and non-ill persons can spread the virus.  The virus is carried in the throat and can be spread during the illness and for as long as a year after infection. Some people can carry and spread the virus off and on throughout their lifetime. For this reason, transmission of the virus is almost impossible to prevent.

If you are ill, your healthcare provider will evaluate your symptoms and may draw blood to test for infectious mononucleosis.  There is no specific treatment for infectious mononucleosis, other than treating the symptoms. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a five-day course of steroids to control the swelling of the throat and tonsils.  After a person is infected with the virus, it remains in their bodies for the rest of their life. Sometimes the virus can reactivate but usually occurs without symptoms of illness.

 How to prevent the spread of EBV:

  • Avoid contact with the body fluids (commonly saliva) of someone who is infected with the virus.
  • Good hygiene is the most effective way to protect you from infection.
  • Avoid sharing utensils or drinking beverages from a common container with infected individuals.

Mononucleosis Fact Sheets and Information:

Mononucleosis Fact Sheet (37k.pdf)

External Mononucleosis Resources:

Mononucleosis (CDC)

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