What's the connection between mononucleosis and Epstein-Barr virus?

Answer From Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is one of the most common viruses that people catch. It can cause a disease called mononucleosis, also known as mono. But when most people get EBV, they have no symptoms.

It takes more than a cough or sneeze to spread EBV. The virus spreads from person to person mainly through saliva. You can catch it from an infected person by doing things such as:

  • Kissing.
  • Sharing food and drinks.
  • Sharing cups, utensils or toothbrushes.

In the United States, at least 1 in 4 teenagers and young adults with EBV get mono. The disease can cause symptoms such as:

  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Fever.
  • Sore throat.
  • Headaches and body aches.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Swelling in the liver, spleen or both.
  • Rash.

There's no clear-cut treatment for mono. You can take steps to ease the symptoms by:

  • Drinking water or other fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Geting lots of rest.
  • Taking medicine that you can get without a prescription for pain and fever.

Some people need treatment for other health problems caused by mono. But most people with the disease get better within a month.


Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.

Jan. 11, 2023