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Epstein Barr Virus - Symptoms, Pictures, Test, Contagious, Treatment

Updated on July 15, 2013

Epstein Barr Virus - What is it?

Epstein Barr Virus or the human herpesvirus is a common causative agent for infections that are quite life straining. The general population is easily affected by this virus because it may or not present itself as what most we expect from infections.

The common disease that this virus causes is mononucleosis, an illness prevalent among adolescents and young adults. This condition is usually called the kissing disease, for you may acquire and pass it through kissing. Sharing of drinking glasses, utensils and dishes can be a mode of transmission of the infection, too. The other conditions that this virus precipitates are Burkitt’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. These are two types of cancer which are uncommon to the general population.


The presenting symptoms of this viral infection are often mild and may disguise it. The symptoms are usually described as flu-like and minor. When you acquire the virus, you would frequently misidentify it as the common cold, for its symptoms are not quite different from each other.

At first, the person who got the virus would experience headache, body aches, cough, a low-grade fever and stuffy nose. These manifestations are quite similar to the one you experience when you have a flu right? But when the condition progresses these typical symptoms will seem to stick in your system for a longer time. In addition, you may develop sore throat which would last for more than two weeks. Swelling of the lymph nodes in the parts of the neck and arm pits is commonly inspected. Body malaise and fatigue is more persistent and distressing to the patient. From a low-grade fever, one can arise to a 105ºF fever. Additional symptoms affecting the eye would emerge. Development of rash can be considered a severe progression of the infection. The condition can even result to serious complications that involve enlargement of the spleen- causing it to rupture, and others such as meningitis or hepatitis. These complications usually arise when you do not seek proper care for the condition.


The exact cure for EBV infection has not been known, but in order to treat the infection, we just need to relieve the manifestations and complains of the patient.

First, we need to relieve the discomfort that the client is experiencing. Provide good rest and avoid straining the patient. Give the client Tylenol to reduce fever. In order to relieve the inflammation, we need to give the patient corticosteroid drugs, essential in relieving the swelling that has occurred in the lymph glands and other areas of the body. Provide nutrition to the client; give plenty of oral fluids and foods that are rich in vitamin C and E.

The treatment for infectious mononucleosis has been nonspecific. Antibiotics are known not to respond to the infection. Therefore, it is not prescribed by the doctors unless the client has developed another infection. Usually, a strep throat develops urging the doctor to prescribe the drug. Antiviral drugs are also suggested. We have acyclovir as a commonly prescribed antiviral drug.

Hospitalization is a priority to clients who have complicated cases. Those who develop a ruptured spleen should seek medical attention urgently, surgery is recommended. These patients need to be monitored accordingly and should be treated as soon as possible.

When the condition is in remission, we can provide the client some complementary treatments. You should provide a warm porridge or chicken soup in order to relieve nasal congestion. Provide a non-stimulating room, so not to worsen the client’s headache. Make sure you do not contaminate others. Be responsible of your things and actions so not to harm others. Avoid personal contact to others who are not infected. However, this cannot be prevented as always. One thing’s for sure is that public awareness can promote good health to others.


In the diagnosis of the EBV infection, we just need to take note of the clinical symptoms the client is presenting. Inspection and taking out the history of the patient’s symptoms can point us to the main culprit of the infection. The physical examination may include the following results: fever, sore throat, swollen lymph glands of the neck, armpits and groin. A tender liver and spleen upon palpation are included in the data gathering.

Blood tests are ordered so to cross out other possibilities such as the simple influenza. Elevated blood cell counts, white blood cells, suggest infection and will help us conclude that infectious mononucleosis is present. A positive reaction to monospot test highly verifies us of the infection. The test, also known as heterophile antibody test, is even made available commercially. It can identify the presence of EBV when there is agglutination of RBCs by the antibodies available in the patient’s body fluid. Laboratory tests such as those testing for EBV antibodies have been quite useful in the differential diagnosis for this infection.

Is this Virus Contagious?

We have known that acquiring this condition is through kissing, exchanging of saliva, direct contact of saliva and sharing of tools that involve using the mouth. But how do we know when this infection is highly contagious and least or not anymore communicable?

The period of communicability is when the symptoms of the infection have not shown up. Yes, you can be very contagious to others without knowing it. By the time of infection, you are in the stage of incubation, wherein the virus has just entered your system and can present itself only through minor symptoms. The time that it usually takes the mononucleosis symptoms to show up would take weeks.

Others are even just carriers, they don’t present any symptom but they can contaminate others with the virus. The symptoms of EBV infection would usually take up to 4 weeks max, and would take up most of your energy.

Studies show that it is possible for this infection to linger in system and infect others. Investigations showed that it may take months for the virus to remain dormant in the body and transmit a disease to others.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago


      I highly doubt your headaches are in connection to your child's EBV. However, if they are consistent I would definitely look into the cause of them with your family Dr.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have had many headaches in the past week...our daughter has ebv...can this be the same thing...:


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