Mononucleosis, more commonly known as "mono" or the kissing disease, is a common disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Also known as the human herpesvirus 4, it's one of the most common human viruses in existence. It's commonly transmitted through human saliva and other bodily fluids, which is where the term "kissing disease" came from. This may be passed from person to person through blood transfusions, organ transplantations and sexual contact.1
Infectious mononucleosis can affect both children and adults. In children, mononucleosis doesn't usually cause symptoms, which is why it is commonly mistaken for other common childhood illnesses. This results in the disease being left undiagnosed when contracted at a younger age.2
The problem is that when a child gets this virus, it is certain that the virus will stay in his/her body and eventually become inactive. In individuals who have weak immune systems, there is a high probability for the virus to eventually reactivate in later years and become contagious again.3
Compared to mononucleosis in children, mononucleosis in adults shows a wider array of symptoms, making it easier for health practitioners to diagnose the disease. Some of the most common indicators of mononucleosis in adults include fatigue, jaundice and pharyngeal inflammation.4
How Common Is Mononucleosis in the Population?
You should know that mononucleosis is not a rare disease at all. Statistics show that about 95 percent of people will contract mononucleosis at some point in their lives, and almost 50 percent of children in the population will become infected by this virus by the age of 5.5
One of the reasons why this disease is so prevalent is that the Epstein-Barr virus never really leaves the infected person's body. It stays there, and is capable of infecting other people who come into contact with the infected person, even if the person has presumably recovered from this infection.6
Another reason that this infection is so easily passed on is that 90 percent of these cases are subclinical, which means that most mononucleosis patients are left undiagnosed because of the lack of symptoms. People who are unknowingly infected engage in activities where bodily fluids are exchanged, without realizing that they are transmitting the virus.7
But Can Mononucleosis Be Fatal?
While the mononucleosis virus itself is not fatal, there have been documented deaths, albeit rare, that were closely connected to the occurrence of mononucleosis. Between the years 1932 to 1970, there have been about 20 well-documented deaths from this disease. These deaths were caused by liver and neurologic complications, splenic rupture and hepatic failure, which are all secondary effects of untreated mononucleosis.8
One of the most recent documented deaths linked to mononucleosis happened in 2015, wherein a high school football player died after a spleen injury. Medical analysts noted that the player had an enlarged spleen, one of the symptoms of mononucleosis. This made him more susceptible to internal bleeding and splenic rupture.
So while his death was not primarily caused by mononucleosis, this strengthens the idea that undiagnosed mononucleosis may lead to a higher susceptibility to fatal injuries and internal damage.9
For more information about mononucleosis, continue reading these articles. Discover its symptoms and causes, as well as diet and prevention strategies against mononucleosis. You will also learn about the various holistic techniques for alleviating the symptoms of this contagious disease.