Infectious Mononucleosis (IM) Or Kissing Disease Causes, Symptoms And Prevention

Infectious Mononucleosis (IM) Or Kissing Disease: Causes, Symptoms And Prevention

Last Updated: 24th July, 2022

Infectious Mononucleosis (IM) or “Kissing Disease” is an infection caused by the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), which can spread through saliva. Though IM or Infectious Mononucleosis is typically caused by the EBV, it can also be caused by other viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), adenovirus, hepatitis virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). But remember the name is a bit misleading because the virus can not only spread by kissing, but also by any exchange of saliva.

Hence, if you share a bite of food or if your friend sneezes when you are nearby, there are chances of contracting the infection. Here is what you need to know about Infectious Mononucleosis (IM) and why it is called as “kissing disease.


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What Causes Infectious Mononucleosis (Kissing Disease)?

Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) belongs to the family of the herpes virus. It is transmitted via bodily fluids. The most conventional way of transmission is through saliva. This means that kissing an infected person can increase the chance of spreading the condition. Hence, the name kissing disease.

The virus can equally spread if you share food or drinks or if through a sneeze. Hence, if a person infected with the virus shares a fork or a spoon, the chances of getting infected is high.

Moreover, the virus can spread through blood and semen. Although the risk of transmission is limited through these methods, it is however possible to get Infectious Mononucleosis (Kissing Disease) through sexual contact or blood transfusion.


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Is Infectious Mononucleosis Deadly?

Most people are exposed to the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) during their childhood days. Although the exposure to this virus is common worldwide, around 90-95% people achieve immunity by adulthood. EBV infection among adolescents and young adults is spread primarily by deep kissing, but the cause of infection in preadolescents is not clear.

Typically it occurs in teenagers, but it can occur at any age. It is an infectious disease which is typically self-limiting, meaning it can either resolve on its own or includes no harmful impact on the health. However, in some cases, it can be detrimental.

How Long Does Infectious Mononucleosis Last?

The incubation period of Infectious Mononucleosis, which means that the virus can remain dormant (do not manifest any symptoms), is between 32 and 49 days. The long incubation periods coupled with the variable nature of the disease make it difficult to detect the condition.

In some cases, the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) can be present in the blood and body secretions for the rest of the life without manifesting any symptoms after an infection. Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) infection can be asymptomatic leading to mild, nonspecific symptoms or turn into a full-blown disease with symptoms such as fatigue lasting up to 6 months or more.


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What Are The Symptoms Of Infectious Mononucleosis (Kissing Disease)?

The most common signs and symptoms of Infectious Mononucleosis (Kissing Disease) are:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes)
  • Fatigue
  • Upper respiratory symptoms
  • A headache
  • Decreased appetite
  • Myalgia (muscle pain)
  • Skin rash

The symptoms reach its peak around a week after infection and then tend to slowly resolve after a week or it may take up to three weeks. The recovery period can range from 2 months to 3 months, which in some cases can last up to 6 months.


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How To Manage And Prevention Of Infectious Mononucleosis (Kissing Disease)?

There is no specific treatment for Infectious Mononucleosis (Kissing Disease) but you need to consult a doctor to remediate and manage the condition. The treatment approach is based on supportive care therapy, which aims at adequate rest and hydration. It equally involves the use of medicines based on the symptoms such as analgesics for relieving pain and inflammation.

As the transmission of the virus is through saliva, prevention is aimed at staying away from the infected person. However, isolation of the infected person is not necessary. Other precautionary measures such as hand washing and not sharing food or water can help.

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