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.

View Slideshows

Quick GuideInfectious Mononucleosis Pictures Slideshow

Infectious Mononucleosis Pictures Slideshow

How is mono transmitted or spread? What is the incubation period for mono? What is the contagious period for mono?

Mono is spread by person-to-person contact. Saliva is the primary method of transmitting mono, which leads to the infection of B lymphocytes in the mouth and throat. Infectious mononucleosis developed its common name of "kissing disease" from this prevalent form of transmission among teenagers. It typically takes between four to eight weeks for symptoms of mono to appear after the initial infection with EBV. A person with mono can also pass the disease by coughing or sneezing, causing small droplets of infected saliva and/or mucus to be suspended in the air which can be inhaled by others. Sharing food or beverages from the same container or utensil can also transfer the virus from one person to another since contact with infected saliva may result.

Most people have been exposed to the virus as children, and as a result of the exposure, they have developed immunity to the virus. It is of note that most people who are exposed to the EBV don't ever develop mononucleosis. The incubation period for mono, meaning the time from the initial viral infection until the appearance of symptoms, is between four and eight weeks. During an infection, the contagious period in which a person is likely able to transmit the virus to others lasts for at least a few weeks and possibly longer, even after symptoms have disappeared (see below).

Research has shown that, depending on the method used to detect the virus, anywhere from 20%-80% of people who have had mononucleosis and have recovered will continue to secrete the EBV in their saliva for years due to periodic "reactivations" of the viral infection. Since healthy people without symptoms also secrete the virus during reactivation episodes throughout their lifetime, isolation of people infected with EBV is not necessary. It is currently believed that these healthy people, who nevertheless secrete EBV particles, are the primary reservoir for transmission of EBV among humans. Therefore, it can be difficult to precisely determine how long the infection may be contagious.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2016
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) - Symptoms

    For infectious mononucleosis (mono), what were the symptoms and signs you experienced?

    Post View 53 Comments
  • Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) - Treatments

    What was the treatment for your mononucleosis?

    Post View 16 Comments
  • Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) - Causes

    Most cases of mononucleosis occur in the 15-24 age group. How did you or your child "catch" mono?

    Post View 7 Comments
  • Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) - Children

    Did your child have mononucleosis? Please share your family's experience.

    Post View 4 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors