One of the many services we provide at the medical practice of John Abroon, M.D., in New York, New York is mononucleosis testing. You may know it as mono, or the “kissing disease.” This is a viral infection which can be transmitted via saliva in other ways as well, such as sharing food, drinks, or silverware. It can also be caught when an infected person coughs or sneezes in your vicinity. Still, it’s not as infectious as the common cold and isn’t usually serious unless there are complications.
The cause of mono is most often by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). But you can be exposed to the virus without ever coming down with the symptoms of mono. Estimates for adults carrying this virus in the U.S. alone ranges between 85 percent to 90 percent of by the time they hit their forties. Other than EBV, the virus can be caused by other viruses too. And it can be transmitted through blood and semen, not just saliva.
You can contract the virus if you’ve had a blood transfusion, organ transplant, or sexually from someone who has it. Symptoms include a fever, a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, loss of appetite, and sore muscles. Your symptoms may vary; some people don’t display symptoms at all, others have mild symptoms that are barely noticeable, while others are more severe. For many people they will start to feel better within a month, though you can still feel really tired for a few weeks longer, still, others have symptoms for six months or more which may hinder day-to-day activities which can be challenging if you work, go to school, are a caregiver, etc.
For those whom complications arise, they can be significant and not just inconvenient. A ruptured spleen might require surgery, but also problems with the liver such as jaundice or hepatitis, and less commonly, heart and nervous system problems, or anemia can arise. Complications are linked to having a weakened immune system, such as taking certain medications or because you have HIV.
You can be tested for this virus via a blood sample taken by pricking your finger or drawn from a vein in your arm. The test is often done along with a complete blood count, known as a CBC to find out if your white blood cells are higher and to see if there are reactive lymphocytes in it. Usually with mono you have an atypical white blood cell count. Sometimes the test needs to be repeated if the results are negative but symptoms are still present. For some a strep test may be ordered.
Most often, young adults or teens are tested for infectious mononucleosis if they come in with symptoms. Since mono symptoms often mimic a cold or flu, testing will rule it out. Symptoms might include extreme tiredness or fatigue, a sore throat, fever, a headache, or swollen lymph glands such as the neck and armpits. Less common symptoms may include a rash, stomach pain, or enlarged spleen or liver.
To alleviate symptoms, you will be advised to get lots of rest and drinking lots of liquids and usually the symptoms will abate within a month to four months. Sometimes, your spleen or liver may be enlarged and if this is the case you will likely be asked to limit your activity until they go back to normal.
If you suspect you might have mono, please contact our medical office on the Upper East Side of New York City. We can be reached at (212) 288-0900 to schedule an appointment with our caring internist, Dr. Abroon.