Caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, infectious mononucleosis particularly affects adolescents and young adults. What are its symptoms, its duration, its screening test and is it contagious? Answers from our general practitioner.
It’s about a mild infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Mononucleosis occurs only once during the life of the individual. It is a mild infection in the vast majority of cases. “We think that 90 to 95% of adults have already had mononucleosis, very often without their knowing it “, immediately announces Dr Nathalie Roda, general practitioner and member of the National Union of Young General Practitioners (SNJMG). Although it can reach everyone, regardless of age or sex, it particularly affects adolescents and young adults.
Mononucleosis is transmitted through saliva, which makes it known as “kiss disease“. Indirectly,”it can also be transmitted by sharing cutlery or glass“, specifies Dr. Nathalie Roda, who adds:”the duration of the incubation period is approximately 3 to 7 weeks.“
In its usual form, this disease results in a fever, a sore throat, an increase in the size of the cervical glands and above all, tiredness. “However, none of these symptoms is systematic in case of mononucleosis“, nuance Nathalie Roda. Be careful however to practice certain sports, because mononucleosis is classically responsible for a splenomegaly (an increase in the size of the spleen), which means avoiding activities at risk of trauma and ruptured spleen. “In babies, mononucleosis is most often not symptomatic, but it can also be responsible for the same symptoms as in adults, or other symptoms such as: ear infections, diarrhea, abdominal pain, symptoms of respiratory infection“, continues Dr Nathalie Roda.
Infectious mononucleosis is contagious. The period of contagion is long and can last up to 6 months after healing, and possibly intermittently for years.
The diagnosis of mononucleosis is based above all on the observation of physical signs. “When the disease is evoked before a set of symptoms, it can then be confirmed by the detection of anti-EBV antibodies by means of a blood test.“, explains Nathalie Roda.
There is no specific treatment to combat this disease, which heals on its own after about four weeks. On the other hand, it is possible to reduce the symptoms which are inherent in it while waiting for the body’s immune defenses to do their job. In case of pain and fever, it is possible to take paracetamol. In case of intense fatigue, only one watchword: Rest.
There is no way to prevent infectious mononucleosis, but you can avoid the contagion by avoiding kissing an affected person or using their cutlery or glass.
Complications are rare, but can affect several organs: the heart (myocarditis), the brain (encephalitis, meningitis), the lungs (pneumonia), the kidney (nephritis) and the liver (viral hepatitis). Rupture of the spleen in the acute phase of infection is another known complication, but fortunately very rare. Finally, if amoxicillin is taken incorrectly, it is classic to see a rash appear.
Thanks to Dr Nathalie Roda, general practitioner and member of the National Union of Young General Practitioners (SNJMG)