Often called the “kissing disease,” mono, or mononucleosis, is a disease that 95% of people in the United States will get during their life. Infections also impact kids, and estimates suggest that 50% of children will have mono by the time they’re 5.
What is Mono?
Mono is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV. Adolescents and those between the age of 15 and 35 are most likely to contract this disease. What happens is that EBV will affect a person’s white blood cells.
But mononucleosis can also be caused by something called “Cytomegalovirus,” or CMV.
A lot of people don’t know about CMV because roughly 85% to 90% of cases are caused by EBV. CMV, on the other hand, is a herpes virus.
Is Mono a Form of Herpes?
Yes. If a person has contracted mono by CMV, this means that the person had to come in direct contact with a person’s bodily fluids that contained the CMV virus. But this can be contact through kissing, or it can be contact through sexual intercourse.
Technically, EBV is also a member of the herpes family, and it’s found in most viruses around the world.
EBV is not highly contagious. A person may contract the disease through secretions of the penis, cervix or vagina, but most people will have EBV-related mono because of saliva.
This is why mono is called the “kissing disease.”
If you kiss someone that has mono, the virus will be transported through the person’s saliva, causing you to contract mono. A lot of kids, those that are mentioned in the statistic above, will contract it through saliva.
CMV mono is an STD.
The good news is that mono, while contagious if you’re intimate with someone, is not as contagious as the flu or cold. You will not give someone mono by being next to them. Instead, you’ll need to kiss or have sexual contact with the person to give them mono.
EBV-related mono can also be transmitted through:
- Genital secretions
There have also been studies, one conducted in Ireland, that show EBV is a sexually transmitted disease. But when you go to an STD clinic, they’ll often only classify mono as an STD when it is contracted through CMV.
Clinics often don’t recognize EBV mono as a sexually transmitted disease despite the recent evidence backing the claim.
Keep in mind that kissing is not considered sexual intercourse, so this is what throws off the definition of EBV mono in clinics. However, studies are also showing that sexual intercourse is more likely to transmit mono than kissing.
Even if EBV isn’t classified as an STD, it still acts much like a sexually transmitted disease.
So, what does this mean if mono is an STD or not?
A lot of people have mono – most of the country will contract it – and people don’t want to have an “STD.” There’s almost a stigma that blocks the definition from being corrected because it’s a lot easier to say I have “mono” than it is to say I have an “STD.”
How Long Does Mono Last?
Mono impacts everyone differently, and a normal person will have mono for 2 – 4 weeks, but it will persist in the body. What does it mean to “have mono?” Well, a person will feel almost like they have the flu.
Mono will start to present 2 – 5 days after contracting the condition.
When this happens, a person will notice that fatigue starts to set in. The fatigue is often brushed to the side, but it’s one of the first symptoms that you’ll notice. Once the fatigue kicks in, you’ll also start feeling a little off.
That feeling of being tired will make you a little “off.”
But then you may also have a fever. The fever and feeling of being tired and fatigued may last a week or two.
The glands in your neck will often start to become swollen, and you may notice that you have a sore throat.
Children, will also experience the symptoms above, but they will often experience:
- Abdominal pain
Children may also have a runny nose or a cough, and rashes tend to be more common when the child is given ampicillin. Some adults may have rashes and abdominal pain, too.
EBV infections are a little different because a person may experience all of the above symptoms, or they may only feel fatigued. The person may also have no symptoms at all. So, for the lucky few that will not experience any symptoms, they may not ever realize that they have any form of mono.
EBV-related mono is interesting because it will persist in the body for the rest of a person’s life. You may be able to kiss someone and not give them mono because the virus isn’t in the saliva, but it may present in the saliva on any given day.
The virus will also be able to persist outside of the body for several hours. This means that there’s a small chance that it can be contracted from saliva hours after drinking from a cup, for example. Even eating the same food as someone that has mono poses a slight risk that mono is still on the food and can be contracted.
A person that contracts mono may have symptoms for months or years after the initial symptoms present, but 2 – 4 weeks is the norm. You may also suffer from mono for longer if you have anemia, hepatitis, mumps, pneumonia and other medical conditions.