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Infectious mononucleosis

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Epstein-Barr virus
Scientific Classification

Infectious Mononucleosis (also known as the kissing disease) is an infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Most symptoms of mono are not noticeable in children but can be seen when older. The EBV virus is very common and can be passed around very easily. There is no medicinal cure for the disease, and once contacted the virus will be carried for life. Having mono is somewhat like the flu, sharing some of the same symptoms.

Causes and Spreading

Infectious mono peripheral smear showing reactive lymphocytes (white blood cells).

Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Most people have been exposed to this virus at one point or another. People with healthy immune systems will likely only show signs of mono once, although the virus will remain in the body for life. It is also possible to be infected but never show signs at all, and instead be a carrier who can spread it around to other people.[1]

One way to catch mono is by kissing someone who is infected by it, hence the name the "kissing disease". By kissing someone with EBV it puts you at risk to get the virus if you haven't had it previously. EBV is spread by saliva. Other ways to catch it is by: sharing utensils, a straw, a toothbrush, or any other way you can come in contact with a carrier’s saliva. A way to make sure you don't spread this virus to anyone else is by making sure you don't share your saliva with anyone in any way. Wash your hands very frequently and cover your mouth and nose if you sneeze or cough. [2]


Epstein-Barr virus shown using the fluorescent antibody staining technique

After about four to seven weeks of showing signs being infected by the EBV virus is when the symptoms start to show. The symptoms of Mononucleosis are: • Abdominal pain • Constant fatigue • Sore throat • Skin rash • Fever • Enlarged liver of spleen • Appetite loss • Sore muscles • Swollen lymph nodes • Headaches [3] • Drowsiness • Jaundice • Neck stiffness • Sensitive to light • Cough • Breath shortage • Chest pain • Rapid heart rate • Nosebleed • Hives [4] There can be all sorts of different combinations of these symptoms. They also maybe very mild and hardly noticeable. Don't just assume you have mono if you have many of these symptoms. Go to your doctor and see what they have to say about your symptoms. It is very easy to confuse the flu with mono because they have many of the same symptoms. It is common that some people will have both strep throat along with there mono. [5] The sore throat should ago away within 10 days. Swollen lymph glands and spleen will heal in 4 weeks. Fatigue should go away within a few weeks but could possibly stay for two to three months. [6]


Mononucleosis has no cure. When you go to the doctor to be checked for mono they will want to take some blood tests to make sure that it is actually mono that is causing your symptoms. If it is mono that is causing your symptoms there isn't anything the doctor can do. The only real cures for mono are all natural things. If you take really good care of yourself it should go away in three to four weeks. Antibiotics such as penicillin will not help unless you have another infection. The number one treatment is making sure you get plenty of rest. It is more critical that you get sleep at the beginning of the illness. If you have a fever, headache, or muscle aches, see if ibuprofen helps. Stay away from Aspirin because it has been linked with a disease in children known as Reye syndrome. For sore throats it helps to chew gum, drink honey tea, or suck on hard candies or Popsicles. You may not be hungry but you should try to maintain a healthy diet. It is also very helpful to drink a lot of water and juices. Even when you start to feel better, take it slow. [7]


Be sure to stay away from sports, not only during your illness but after as well. Because of the enlarging of the spleen during the illness it is possible that it can even rupture. Ruptured spleens are very rare, but people with mono have a greater risk at getting one. This is the most serious concern. The signs of a ruptured spleen are: having trouble with bleeding, pains on the left side of your abdomen, bleeding more easily, feeling light headed, and a feeling that your heart is beating hard and fast. [8] A way to avoid a ruptured spleen is being sure to stay away from sports, especially sports that require contact with someone or something, for a couple months. Also, make sure to take it easy even if your symptoms have gone away. [9] Some other complications that rarely occur but are still possible are: Throat infections, neurological complications, hepatitis, hemolytic anemia, and orchitis. [10]

swollen tonsils.