Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Incubation Period for Mono

The incubation period (from time of exposure to EBV to symptom development) is about four to seven weeks, and some people can spread the disease during the incubation period and up to 18 months later. Mono can be spread by blood, semen, and organ transplants. Saliva-contaminated toothbrushes, utensils, and contact with other EBV-contaminated objects may also spread the disease.

Epstein-Barr virus infection facts

  • The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a herpes virus that is found worldwide and is a common cause of viral pharyngitis (infectious mononucleosis).
  • The cause of an Epstein-Barr infection (mononucleosis) is EBV; risk factors include intimate contacts with body secretions (especially saliva) and objects that may be exposed to body secretions of infected people.
  • The Epstein-Barr virus is contagious and is spread from person to person.
  • EBV is contagious during the incubation period and while symptoms are present; some individuals may be contagious for as long as 18 months.
  • EBV is transmitted from person to person mainly by saliva; however, other body fluids may transmit the disease. Items contaminated with bodily fluids like saliva (toys, utensils, cups, for example) may also transmit the disease.
  • The incubation period for an Epstein-Barr virus infection is about four to seven weeks.
  • The symptoms and signs of an EBV infection may include malaise, fever, muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, lymph node swelling, liver swelling, rash, and spleen swelling.
  • Preliminary diagnosis of EBV infection is based on the patient's history and physical exam; physicians may also use immunological tests that vary in specificity.
  • Treatment of EBV infection is mainly supportive (see home remedies section); some health-care providers use cortisone treatment.
  • Home remedies that may help reduce symptoms are rest, fluids, over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, and avoiding trauma that can further injure organs like a swollen spleen.
  • The possible complications of EBV infection may include an enlarged spleen, jaundice, liver inflammation, anemia, splenic rupture, swollen tonsils, breathing difficulties, rash, irregular heartbeats, and a possible increased risk for cancer.
  • The majority of people with EBV have a good prognosis; a few have a more guarded prognosis.
  • There is no vaccine for EBV, and prevention is difficult. Risk can be reduced by not contacting body fluids from infected individuals and practicing good hand-washing techniques.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2015

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