Mononucleosis is a viral infection that affects the white blood cells in the body. This disease is common among adolescents and young adults and is one of the biggest causes of school absences. Unfortunately, because younger children rarely show symptoms of the disease, it is spread easier in elementary settings.
It has earned the nickname the “kissing disease” because it is spread through saliva. While 85 percent of the cases of Mono are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, 15 percent are related to a herpes virus called cytomegalovirus. The symptoms of both variants are the same, with no ability to treat the condition beyond rest and fluids.
Mononucleosis does not always present with symptoms. However, it is characterized by excessive fatigue, sometimes sleeping for 12 to 16 hours per day. Other symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen neck glands
These symptoms may take up to a month to present. It is extremely important to obtain an early diagnosis of Mononucleosis since the symptoms can also lead to a loss of appetite and nausea. In some cases, a rash can develop on the chest and the patient’s spleen becomes enlarged.
Mononucleosis is an infectious disease, but it can only be spread through contact with an infected person’s saliva. If symptoms are present, they typically last one to two weeks, during which time the patient is contagious. The disease can be spread through saliva, so it is important to not kiss, share food or drink, and avoid activities where saliva can be exchanged. The effects of Mononucleosis such as tired muscles and a weakened immune system can remain for several months after the contagion period ends.
The test is typically prescribed if the person is excessively tired and has a general sense of not feeling well that cannot be explained by other test results. If the symptoms present early in the incubation period, the virus may not show up on the initial blood test and additional blood work may be necessary.
The qualitative Mononucleosis Test screens the blood for heterophil antibodies which indicate the presence of the Epstein Barr virus. The qualitative test provides either a positive or a negative result. A positive result will always occur if you have ever been infected by the disease. However, that does not mean the symptoms experienced is related to the disease, only that the disease is present in the blood. A negative result indicates no presence of the virus in the blood. Once you are infected with the virus, traces of it will always be present in your blood, even if you are not feeling the symptoms.
A positive test for heterphile antibodies does not necessarily indicate Mononucleosis, as those suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus and lymphoma could also test positive for the antibodies.
Since this disease is viral in nature, antibiotics are generally not prescribed. The best known treatment is bed rest. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen is recommended to reduce fever and swelling.
Other conditions can develop including strep throat, sinus infection or abscesses in one or both tonsils, so it is important to follow up with your healthcare provider if symptoms persist or worsen.
Related tests through Health Testing Centers
Since the specific purpose for a Mono test is to determine the presence of heterphile antibodies, it could also be helpful to test for a combination of Epstein-Barr virus antibodies. Other tests to consider include a Complete Metabolic Panel (CMP), Anemia Panel or a simple CBC Blood Test.