Dear Dr. Roach: Our 18-year-old has been exposed to mono. Can you provide some information about this disease, including symptoms, treatment, complications and dangers of exposure to other family members, including toddlers and senior citizens? F.J.M.
ANSWER: Infectious mononucleosis symptoms can be caused by several viruses and one parasite (toxoplasmosis), but classically, it is caused by Epstein-Barr virus, of the herpes family. Its symptoms can be quite varied, and although for most people it is a self-limited illness, symptoms can be severe and long-lasting in some people, while others will have no apparent symptoms.
The cardinal symptoms (the major symptoms leading to recognition of the disease) in mononucleosis are fever; fatigue; a sore, inflamed throat; and enlarged lymph nodes. It is mostly shed by saliva, and infected people are often contagious for six months. Some people shed the virus after a natural infection for decades.