Technically, yes, mono can be considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But that’s not to say that all cases of mono are STIs.
The virus can be transmitted through sexual contact, but it’s most often transmitted through saliva. That’s why many people have dubbed it the “kissing disease.”
But it’s more complex than it sounds.
Well, EBV is usually transmitted through bodily fluids — like saliva, blood, and, you guessed it, genital secretions. This means that if you’re having sex without a condom, the virus could be transmitted from one person to another.
Sex without a condom isn’t the only way the virus is transmitted.
It’s most commonly transmitted through saliva, by way of kissing, sharing food or drinks, sharing utensils, or touching toys from slobbery babies.
It’s thought that the virus survives on an object for as long as the object stays moist.
Definitely. An estimated 85 to 90 percent of American adults develop antibodies to the virus by age 40, which essentially means they’ve come in contact with the virus at some point in their lives.
The virus is usually contracted in early childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.
However, having cold sores (another herpes variation known as HSV-1) as a kid doesn’t mean that you have EBV. The different variations aren’t mutually exclusive.
This depends on when you contract it.
As a child, the symptoms of the virus might not be distinguishable from a mild cold, or there might not be any symptoms at all.
Typical symptoms of the virus tend to occur in teens or young adults.
You certainly can. The virus itself is usually asymptomatic, whereas the illnesses it can cause typically cause noticeable symptoms.
This means that someone who has an asymptomatic EBV infection may unknowingly transmit the virus to others. This may explain why it’s so commonly transmitted.
There are a few things you can do to prevent contracting or transmitting the virus that causes mono.
All you have to do is avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils, or kissing. Simple, right?
Realistically, the best thing you can do to prevent mono itself is to avoid close contact with anyone who’s sick.
This is especially true for anyone who might be coughing or sneezing.
Taking measures to improve your overall health and well-being may also provide a boost to your immune system, making your body better equipped to handle the virus.
For example, eating nutritious food, getting adequate sleep (typically around 6 to 8 hours a night), and staying active can all have a positive impact.
You may experience cold-like symptoms. This can include:
- exhaustion or fatigue
- sore throat
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- skin rash
- body aches
- decreased appetite
- spots on the back of the throat
Mono symptoms are often similar to common cold symptoms, so it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose the condition based on symptoms alone.
While some doctors can make an educated guess, mono is typically confirmed through lab testing. Your doctor may recommend a heterophile antibody test or monospot test.
Although these tests are usually accurate, it’s possible to receive a false negative by testing too soon after infection.
Treatment ultimately depends on the severity of your symptoms.
Often, it’s as simple as drinking liquids and getting plenty of rest so the body has time to destroy the virus on its own.
Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter medication to reduce fever and swelling.
In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to help reduce the swelling around the throat area.
A less common symptom of mono is an enlarged spleen, known as splenomegaly. In very rare cases, participating in contact sports can cause the spleen to rupture, which is life-threatening emergency.
To prevent this, doctors recommend avoiding contact sports for at least 4 weeks after you start experiencing symptoms or until you fully recover.
Certainly. However, researchers don’t have a definitive answer on how long the virus is contagious for.
For example, some people may not realize they’re sick until they begin experiencing symptoms. This may take up to 6 weeks after initial exposure.
Once symptoms appear, they may last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.
Some researchers say mono can be transmitted for up to 3 months after your symptoms have cleared. But some studies have found it can be transmitted to another person for up to 18 months.
This lengthy contagious period may be another reason why mono is so common.
This varies from person to person.
While some people may feel their symptoms begin to subside after only 7 days, others may feel sick for up to 4 weeks.
Although the symptoms of mono will eventually go away, the virus itself isn’t curable.
EBV generally remains dormant in the body for the rest of your life. In some cases, the virus may produce a latent infection in the throat, but a person will continue on otherwise healthy.
Probably not. Most people will only get mono once in their lives.
In rare cases, the virus may reactivate. There are generally few to no symptoms when this happens.
But it may cause illness in people who have weakened immune systems. This includes people who:
- have HIV or AIDS
- might be pregnant
- have had an organ transplant
In extremely rare cases, mono can lead to chronic active EBV infection, in which people experience persistent symptoms.
Mono is a common contagious disease. Although it can be classified as an STI, this isn’t always the case.
More often, the disease is passed through saliva, and can be contracted in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.
If you think that you might be experiencing symptoms of mono, make an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare provider. You should also try to drink more fluids and get plenty of rest.
Jen is a wellness contributor at Healthline. She writes and edits for various lifestyle and beauty publications, with bylines at Refinery29, Byrdie, MyDomaine, and bareMinerals. When not typing away, you can find Jen practicing yoga, diffusing essential oils, watching Food Network or guzzling a cup of coffee. You can follow her NYC adventures on Twitter and Instagram.