The Truth about Mono
While most people have heard of mono (or mononucleosis, a virus in the herpes simplex family), not everyone has their facts straight about this rampant condition. Popularly known as the "kissing disease," kissing is only one of several ways mononucleosis can be contracted. Most individuals also errantly believe that one can never recover from mono, that one can avoid contracting mono, that mono always occurs with accompanying symptoms, that mono affects only teenagers, and many more inaccurate beliefs.
Mono Myths Versus Facts
To help set you straight about mono, here are some widespread myths and some hard-core facts about the condition called mononucleosis.
Myth: Mono (the "kissing disease") is caused by kissing an individual infected with the virus.
Fact: Infectious mononucleosis is transmitted via saliva and therefore kissing is one way to spread the virus - however it is not the only way, as mono can also be transmitted by sharing a drink, straw, or toothbrush with an infected individual. However sine the virus that causes mononucleosis is not airborne (as it is with viruses that cause the flu and the common cold), doctors say mono is usually contracted by close bodily contact over time.
Myth: Mono is always accompanied by symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, loss of appetite, and more.
Fact: Mono may be accompanied by some of these symptoms, as well as by night sweats, swollen spleen, inflamed liver, skin rash, and sore throat. However, mononucleosis can also occur without any apparent symptoms (especially in children), and even symptom-free individuals may still carry the virus in their saliva and transmit the disease to others.
Myth: Mono is a condition that affects teenagers.
Fact: While teenagers comprise the largest percentage of individuals who contract mono, mono affects children and adults as well. In general, mono symptoms become more severe and recovery times become longer with age. By the age of 35 to 40 years, it is estimated that 95 percent of American adults have been exposed to the virus.
Myth: Mono is just a bad case of strep throat.
Fact: Sore throat is one of the classic symptoms of mononucleosis, in addition to swollen tonsils. However the symptoms of strep throat are but a secondary infection that can occur when mono is present. While recovery from strep throat typically takes a few days, recovery from mono can take several weeks.
Myth: Individuals with mono are contagious and should be confined to their homes.
Fact: From an infection point of view, since mono is not transmitted through casual contact, there is no reason why infected individuals should not gradually return to their regular activities. However, if sufferers are running a fever, are fatigued, or if their spleen or liver is swollen, they might choose to stay home and rest and should avoid injury to the abdominal area (i.e., refraining from sports and exercise).
Myth: Someone who had mono can relapse; one can never recover from mono.
Fact: While it is true that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) which causes mono remains dormant in a person's body for the rest of their life, a person who has already been infected by the virus cannot be infected again. On the other hand, EBV can become reactivated and thus even symptom-free individuals can transmit EBV to others (with the first evidence of mono symptoms typically appearing four to six weeks after exposure). While recovery from mono can take weeks or months, fortunately, recovery eventually does occur.
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