Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono)

  • Medical Author:
    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.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Could your sore throat be a symptom of mono?

Sore Throat: Is It Mono?

Having a sore throat can be a symptom of many conditions, and many people wonder if their own sore throat might be a sign of something more serious than the common cold. Specifically, infectious mononucleosis ("mono") and infection with Streptococcus bacteria ("strep throat") are two conditions that both produce an extremely painful sore throat.

Picture of Infectious Mononucleosis

Quick GuideInfectious Mononucleosis Pictures Slideshow

Infectious Mononucleosis Pictures Slideshow

Infectious mononucleosis (mono) facts

  • Infectious mononucleosis (mono) is a contagious illness typically caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
  • The infection can be spread by saliva, and the incubation period for mono is four to eight weeks. Using contaminated items, such as drinking glasses or toothbrushes, can spread the infection.
  • Most adults have laboratory evidence (antibodies against the EBV) indicative of a previous infection with EBV and are immune to further infection.
  • The symptoms of mono include
  • The diagnosis of mono is confirmed by blood tests.
  • Mono can cause liver inflammation (hepatitis) and enlargement of the spleen.
  • Vigorous contact sports should be avoided during the illness and recovery phase to prevent rupture of the spleen.
  • The long-term prognosis for most people with mono is excellent, and severe complications are rare.

What is infectious mononucleosis?

Infectious mononucleosis, "mono," "kissing disease," and glandular fever are all terms popularly used for the very common infection typically caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), but other viruses can also cause the disease. This article focuses specifically on the EBV as a cause of mono since this is the characteristic virus associated with the condition.

The symptoms of infection with EBV include fever, fatigue, malaise, and sore throat. The designation "mononucleosis" refers to an increase in a particular type of mononuclear white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the bloodstream relative to the other white blood cells as a result of the viral infection. Scientifically, EBV is classified as a member of the herpesvirus family.

The disease was first described in 1889 and was referred to as "Drüsenfieber," or glandular fever. The term infectious mononucleosis was first used in 1920 when an increased number of lymphocytes were found in the blood of a group of college students who had fever and symptoms of the condition.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2016
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