Infectious mononucleosis is caused by Epstein-Barr virus which affects primarily liver and spleen. Although EBV colloquially known as the “kissing disease” may be mild, unobtrusive, and similar to a throat infection, it may incite a more serious disease as a result of potential complications. High-risk groups include children and adolescents, and it typically lasts two to four weeks. Complicated or untreated Epstein-Barr virus may lead to jaundice or pneumonia.

Risk factors

The most common risk factor of Epstein-Barr virus is a weak immune system as a consequence of excess strain, stress and nervous exhaustion. If immunity becomes weak, the body may be easily infected with the EB virus which is in most cases transmitted in saliva, hence its second name “students’ disease” or “kissing disease”. A risk factor is any oral contact with an infected object (bottle, cigarette, toothbrush, cutlery, etc.). EBV can be less often contracted through coughing.    

Incubation period and diagnosis

The incubation period varies, some experts estimate 30 to 50 days, others 4 to 6 weeks. Anyhow, the disease is detected due to symptoms lasting less than a month. Suspected EBV can be confirmed through a throat swab and blood sampling. It is associated with a higher amount of white blood cells of atypical shape and the presence of antibodies produced by the immune system (the antibody-specific test is performed). In some cases, EBV is confirmed via positive liver tests.

Signs and symptoms

Epstein-Barr virus may have a gradual or abrupt progression. The body temperature may be slightly elevated, but fever around 40°C is often present for up to two weeks. Enlarged lymph nodes are typical and may lead to a so called exudative pharyngytis, when a patient has difficulties swallowing and suffers from a loss of appetite caused by the severe sore throat. Symptoms may be accompanied by chills, headache, joint pain, malaise, blocked nose, shortness of breath and a characteristic breath odour.    

Preventing EBV

Effective prevention entails avoiding the risk factors that might promote EBV transmission. If stress, exhaustion or excess strain cannot be limited, then the targeted boost of the immune system should be provided in a form of a varied diet high in vitamins and minerals, or via natural food supplements enhancing the immunity.

Treatment

The treatment of EBV depends on its course. If severe, admission to a hospital’s isolation ward is necessary, where medications are administered to alleviate the symptoms. The treatment is complemented by rest and a special diet, which is able to achieve a more rapid regeneration of the liver cells. As no drug exists which would destroy EBV, patients can only rely on their immune system to eliminate the harmful viruses. Unfortunately, the immune system is weakened by EBV, thus its reinforcement using diet and natural supplements is essential.    

Impact of the immune system on EBV

Mononucleosis is a result of Epstein-Barr virus contraction while being physically and mentally weak. A healthy and strong immunity can defend one from EBV, but with a weak immune system the virus has an opportunity to spread and cause harm. Should we enhance the immune system naturally to reach the defensive mechanism, the virus is destroyed during the incubation period and the recovery is faster and more powerful.

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