If your physician has just told you that you have developed infectious mononucleosis, you probably have a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and changes in your blood. You may also have a rash, fatigue, swaeting at night, an enlarged spleen, or an enlarged liver. Other abnormalities may occur in infectious mononucleosis, but these are very rare.
"Mono" is generally caused by a virus known as the Epstein-Barr virus, although it is possible that other factors may contribute to the cause. There is some circumstantial evidence that there are mono carriers--people who are not sick themselves but who harbor the causative agents and can pass the disease to other people through their saliva.
Transmitting the virus
This disease may be contracted by kissing a person who carries the virus in the saliva. Other means of transmission have not been proven.
How long will you be ill?
The illness is unpredictable. Many people never have to be bedridden because their illness is so mild. Some people apparently have mono and recover without knowing they ever had it. They may even be able to go about their usual activities, including athletics (with physician's approval), because the only effects of the disease for them may be some enlarged lymph nodes, blood changes, and perhaps minor sore throat and fatigue. Only in one or two cases out of a hundred will a physician need to confine someone to bed for more than two weeks; with good medical care, most people are up and around within a few days.
Loss of energy
Fatigue may be a factor in the recovery period. How long you remain tired from this illness varies considerably. Many people have little or no fatigue at any time. A few people will be tired for many months. Some will be somewhat tired for one to four weeks following a few days of fever at the beginning of their illness, gradually recovering their full strength and energy. Note that the fatigue is not the cause of the infectious mononucleosis but is the result of it. When a person becomes tired a few months after having mono, it is often impossible to decide whether it is from the mononucleosis itself or from some other cause. Certainly, those who have tend to be tired off and on before mono are not likely to be less tired afterwards.
The rate of recovery is influenced by your psychological state. People who are strongly motivated to return to their usual activities generally recover more rapidly than others. Those who are depressed are likely to recover more slowly. If you are as active as your physician and your personal feelings of strength permit, then you will probably recover a little faster than if you baby yourself, staying in bed for long periods of time and allowing yourself to become weaker than is necessary.
How does your physician know that you have mono? He or she suspects it from a combination of your complaints and what is found when examining you. Then he or she confirms the suspicion by laboratory tests. It may take a week or even longer after you have developed a fever before your laboratory test becomes positive. Therefore, if your test is not positive at first and you still have symptoms of mono, your physician may order a second blood test to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no cure for mono. However, in a few cases medication may help speed recovery somewhat. Some cases of mono are complicated by strep infections in the throat and tonsils, for which penicillin or another antibiotic is needed to get rid of the infection. When fever or severe sore throat is a problem, cortisone derivatives may be prescribed to suppress the symptoms, but cortisone is not used routinely to treat infectious mononucleosis. A physician must determine whether such a drug should be used.
What should you do if you think you have mononucleosis?
If you suspect that you have some of the symptoms described here, don't panic. See your health care provider or contact the University Health Services at 865-6556. Students at campuses other than University Park should consult with their campus health nurse.