Mono is a viral infection that is very common in children and young adults around the world. The infection's full name is mononucleosis, but in Europe it is also known as Glandular Fever, as it causes swelling of the lymph glands.

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is what causes most incidences of mono. This virus is easily and frequently passed from person to person. If you are over the age of 30, chances are that you have already been in contact with this virus.

Most of the time, the virus produces no visible symptoms or is mistaken for a common cold or flu. However, 35% to 50% of children who come into contact with the Epstein-Barr virus will develop mono.

A virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV) can also result in infectious mononucleosis. This virus is related to the herpes family, and is commonly picked up by the time you turn 40. Like EBV, the cytomegalovirus is contracted by 85% of the population by the age of 35. It often causes no symptoms, but it can result in mono, especially in adolescents and teenagers.

How do you get Mono?

If you have mono, your friends and family may be teasing you about how you managed to pick the infection up. It is often termed "The Kissing Disease," because the virus is spread through the exchange of saliva. Just because you have mono though, doesn't mean that you have been recklessly kissing everyone around you. In fact mono is quite easily picked up through contact with everyday items. 

As the mono virus is found both in saliva and in mucus, it can be passed from an infected person to other people through kissing or through sexual contact. It is rarely passed through coughing or through other ways. After exposure, it usually takes 4-6 weeks for the signs of mono to develop. The good news is that people generally only get mono once!

Transmission of mononucleosis often happens when you:

  • share drinks and food with others
  • touch an infected utensil
  • just shake hands with someone who has the virus

How long is Mono Contagious?

Once you've had mono, it is unlikely that you'll get it again. Our bodies are smart enough to produce antibodies to fight off the virus. These will remain in your system for the rest of your life. There are instances of recurring mononucleosis, however these are few and far between. Only 1% to 2% of those who have had mono will get it again.

If you know someone with mono, be careful, because it is contagious for up to two months, so avoid sharing food or drinks with an infected person. Some people will develop chronic mononucleosis, in which symptoms last for longer than six months.

Most teenagers are familiar with mono. Since this disease is most prevalent for people between the ages of 5 and 25, and 1-3% of college students contract mono each year, they are highly familiar with it.

Mono is highly contagious and is spread through exposure to body fluids containing the virus. For this reason, it's often referred to as the "kissing disease."

Some History

Mono was first described in 1920 in the Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital by Sprunt and Evans. In their article, they described the clinical characteristics of Epstein-Barr virus infectious mononucleosis. As early as the 1800s, infectious mononucleosis has been understood to be a clinical syndrome that consists of fever, pharyngitis, and adenopathy. The association between mono and EBV was first described during the late 1960s.

What Are the Signs?

Signs of mono include fever, sore throat, headaches, white patches on the back of the throat, swollen glands, an extreme feeling of tiredness and a loss of appetite. Someone with mono will exhibit many of these symptoms. When discussing these symptoms with your doctor, he will, undoubtedly, come to the conclusion that you are experiencing mono. This assumption will then be confirmed through blood tests. There is one common test called the Monospot test that is frequently used.

Is There a Cure?

There is no way to cure mono. Rather, doctors will treat the symptoms. You'll be told to spend plenty of time in bed and to drink a lot of fluids. Eventually, mono will pass on its own. It is important to see a doctor if your mono persists for an unusually long time.


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