EBV is a contagious virus that is transmitted from person to person and occurs throughout the world. The cause of infection is generally close person-to-person contact through bodily fluids, especially saliva. It may also be transmitted during sexual contact through semen, and can also be spread by blood transfusions or organ transplants.
Once the virus is acquired, it takes about four to six weeks for symptoms to appear. Children usually have nonspecific symptoms or no symptoms at all. Rarely, young children may have rashes, pneumonia, or low white blood counts. A small percentage of people develop a rash due to the infection. A rash can also develop in people with mononucleosis who are given ampicillin or amoxicillin. This common reaction does not necessarily mean the patient is allergic to penicillin or related antibiotics.
There is no specific medicine to treat mononucleosis. Some physicians use corticosteroids to treat significant swelling in the throat or an enlarged spleen, but steroids are not needed in most people. Antiviral medications are available to help oral hairy leukoplakia, including acyclovir (Zovirax), ganciclovir (Cytovene), and foscarnet (Foscavir).
Approximately 12% of susceptible college-aged young adults convert each year, half of whom develop acute infectious mononucleosis. Mortality and morbidity rates due to uncomplicated primary EBV infectious mononucleosis are low. Leiomyomas and leiomyosarcomas in immunocompromised children, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and Burkitt lymphoma are among other neoplasms caused by EBV. Although primarily a disease of young adults, EBV infectious mononucleosis may occur from childhood to old age.