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5 Facts About the Epstein-Barr Virus

written by: •edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 5/2/2009

The Epstein-Barr virus is a member of the herpes family and responsible for causing the "Kissing Disease." Most people have been exposed to it at some point in their lives.

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    1. The Epstein-Barr virus is a member of the herpes family.

    It is a very common type of virus and most people are infected with it at some point during their lives. In the U.S., a full 95 percent of the population between the ages of 35 and 40 has been infected.

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    2. The Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis.

    Mononucleosis, or "mono", is a viral infection that affects the lymph nodes in the neck and the throat. Symptoms include a sore throat, swollen glands in the neck, groin, or armpits, fatigue, and a fever. These symptoms may be relatively mild and it is not uncommon for a person with Epstein-Barr virus to think they have a cold.

    If Epstein-Barr lasts for six months or more, it is considered a chronic virus. The answer to the question, "Is mononucleosis contagious?" is "Yes". It is spread through contact with the moisture from the infected person's mouth. Mononucleosis is known as "the kissing disease" for good reason. It can also be spread by sharing utensils, drinking glasses, and toothbrushes with an infected person.

    Once someone has been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus, it goes through the lytic cycle. This includes the virus attaching itself to a host cell, inserting its genetic material into the cell, and spreads to other cells in the body.

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    3. The Epstein-Barr virus will not respond to antibiotics.

    Since this is a virus, prescribing antibiotics will not help. Doctors usually recommend getting some extra rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Once the fever that accompanies the virus has broken, the person can slowly resume his or her normal activities. Epstein-Barr virus is sometimes accompanied by Strep throat, and in that situation, an antibiotic may be prescribed.

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    4. Infants can become infected with the Epstein-Barr virus.

    Babies are born with a certain level of antibody protection that they get from their mother. Once this wears off, they are susceptible to the virus.

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    5. The Epstein-Barr virus can be diagnosed with a blood test.

    The test indicates whether certain antibodies are present. Most doctors don't order it, though. Instead, they may take a throat swab to find out whether the affected person has strep throat.