‘Kissing disease’ linked to lethargy, loneliness
Lethargy, postponed exams, sitting out the football season, loneliness. These are just some of the ways in which “mono” — or the “kissing disease” as it’s often called — can affect college and university students.
The disease, whose medical name is infectious mononucleosis, is most common in people between the ages of 10 and 35 with its peak incidence in those 15 to 17. Only 50 people out of 100,000 in the general population experience mono’s symptoms, but it strikes many more.
In fact, according to Dr. Joseph Chance, director of general medicine for student health at the University of Virginia, odds are not in your favour when it comes to avoiding mono.
“Statistically, every college student has a 75 per cent chance of having mono before they graduate,” he says.
Mono is typically transmitted though saliva and mucus. But the virus can also be transmitted in other ways, such as sharing a straw with an infected person or being close when that person coughs or sneezes. That’s when the two common viruses that cause mono attack.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) both belong to the herpes family, whose relatives include those more common viruses that are responsible for cold sores and chickenpox.
About half of all children are infected with EBV before they’re five, but it usually doesn’t cause any symptoms.
After infection, the virus stays with you for life, but usually doesn’t cause any additional symptoms.
Still, every now and then you may produce particles in your saliva that can transmit the virus to other people, even though you feel fine.
By the age of 40, 85 to 90 per cent of North Americans have EBV antibodies.
If you’re tired and achy, with a sore throat and enlarged glands, a simple mononucleosis spot test should determine if you have it. Other tests might include a complete blood count to see if your blood platelet count is lower than normal or if lymphocytes are abnormal, and a chemistry panel to see if liver enzymes are abnormal.
If your throat is sore, having a throat culture is a good idea, too, as the symptoms of mono and strep infection are similar.
Once you’ve been diagnosed, treatment for mono is not all that different from treating cold symptoms. You’ll need plenty of bed rest and have to drink lots of fluids.