Infectious mononucleosis

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        Infectious mononucleosis most commonly called mono is a viral infection caused by the herpes virus known as the Epstein-Barr virus. Most people know of mononucleosis by its nickname "the kissing disease." Infectious mononucleosis was first discovered by a German doctor named Emil Pfeiffer in 1889. He at first called the disease "glandular fever," this is because everyone who was diagnosed seemed to have severely swollen glands. Over time after doctors developed blood tests using the white blood cells in humans, also known as monocytes. These monocytes each only have one nucleus within them; therefore the disease was from then on known as mononucleosis.

        There are two main viruses that cause mononucleosis. The most well known is of course the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes about eighty-five percent of cases in the world today. The Epstein-Barr virus is named after two British researchers, Michael Epstein and Yvonne Barr who discovered and identified the virus in 1964. While the other fifteen percent of mononucleosis cases are spread by the cytomegalovirus which was identified in the 1950's. The first time anyone is actually infected with the Epstein-Barr virus they have a thirty-five to fifty percent chance of actually getting mononucleosis. In the United States the majority of mononucleosis cases are between fifteen and twenty-five year olds, although no matter what age, everyone has a chance of getting infected.

Epstein-Barr virus permanently contaminates over ninety percent of the people living on earth today, so for you to go your whole lifetime without mononucleosis ever infecting you would be extremely uncommon. In some cases you could be infected only end up with a slight cold or in unusual occasions no illness at all. In the United States the Epstein-Barr virus is not a very serious threat to people, as it is in other parts of the world. In Africa and New Guinea it is linked to a disease known as Burkett's lymphoma. This connection has been around sense the 1970's and it is very seriously infecting people all over the world. This is one reason why to this day researchers are continually striving to approach a vaccine that will avert the spread of infection.

Mononucleosis is rarely passed on to the people you are around most often, so there is no reason for the ill person to be kept isolated from their loved ones during the time of the infection. During the point of the fever is really the only time when mononucleosis is remotely contagious at all. Even after the fever is gone mononucleosis lives in the person's saliva in vastly small amounts for around six months. Some ways you can actually catch the disease are sharing eating utensils, using the same pillows, using another person's lip gloss, or even being in an infected persons "hot zone" (the three foot long space saliva travels from a cough or sneeze). You may have never been kissed and yet you still acquire mononucleosis.

        College students and teens are highly prone to this virus for many reasons. They have such busy schedules and are always on the move that they are unlikely to ever obtain the right amount of sleep. Also they get stressed out over the slightest things, and it ends up putting a lot more on their minds than they actually need to be worrying about. Even the kinds of food they are consuming, like instead of eating healthy they are eating a lot of junk food which can reduce the amount of white blood cells that your body is producing. Anyone of these things can make it exceedingly hard for the immune system of teens and young adults to fight off mononucleosis.

        Some areas like school and parties or social events are not as safe as you might think for staying healthy. When at school you are likely to be exposed to the mononucleosis virus just about anywhere. Various locations include the dining hall or cafeteria, the library, a sporting event, and even just sitting in the bleachers around your classmates. Another major place when the disease is spread is at any kind of parties, this is because everyone is going around drinking and not keeping track of their individual glass so there is a lot of sharing going on. People end up sharing alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and even needles. So it is very important to always remember to wash your hands and take any other precautions you might be aware of just to stay away from mononucleosis.

        Symptoms of mononucleosis are not even remotely noticeable to the patient until about four or six weeks after the virus actually entered into the body, this time period is known as the incubation period. The first symptoms you will notice if infected are sore throat, red tonsils covered with pus, fever, weakness, enlarged spleen, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and you are extremely tiered all the time. One extremely rare symptom of mononucleosis is called jaundice. Jaundice is when the skin and eyes of the patient turn yellow and it is not uncommon for them to have a large rash around their chest as well. Mononucleosis patients should know that they will be infected with some if not all of these symptoms for a minimum of four weeks before any healing starts to take place.

        Within the second week of being infected with mononucleosis it is likely if your fever and your sore throat continue. During the time of your fever and your extreme fatigue, be sure to have your own separate drinking glass. Also it would be wise to avoid kissing anyone until your fever has been down for numerous days strait. This is the time when mononucleosis is not very contagious to others at all. The majority of people who get infected with mononucleosis never really find out exactly where and when they actually picked up the virus. Once you have the virus inside your system it stays in your body forever which makes it rare for someone to get infected with mononucleosis once they have already had it.

        Some interesting facts to be aware of that might happen to any mononucleosis patients include; tonsils swelling so much they actually touch, eyes becoming sensitive to light, tooth aches, and even difficulty seeing. Sometimes the temperatures of patients can reach as high as one hundred and three degrees Fahrenheit. The fevers in young adults will usually only last for a matter of around seven days. The fever of older patients can last anywhere from thirteen to fifteen days. This is because the older the child is the longer it will end up taking them to heal completely from mononucleosis.

        The winter season is the time when most physicians believe mononucleosis is most easily spread. This is usually the cause of everyone spending mostly all of their time indoors. Also everyone always seems to come in close contact with more people during this time of year which helps easily increase the number of people diagnosed. In some cases you could end up getting exposed to the virus, and it would go directly underground in your system then come up years later making the symptoms ten times worse when you are infected.

        When you first realize that you are infected with mononucleosis you will most likely decide to make a trip to the doctor's office. And when you do this basically the only thing the doctor will tell you is to take it easy, because mononucleosis can by no means be treated by antibiotics. Although most of the time they do advise you to take forms of Tylenol to help bring down the fever. Also it is recommended you drink plenty of fluids, keep a soft diet because it is very hard to swallow with the swollen tonsils. Make sure as well that you avoid any kinds of citrus fruits during the time of infection they could end up making you feel worse.

        Always be sure to listen to your body during the time of infection and it is incredibly important that you get plenty of rest. Some ways that will help you feel less miserable are chew gum, eat popsicles, ice cream, and drink any kinds of warm liquids like tea. A lot of the time you feel so sick that walking to just a bathroom or down some stairs can take almost every ounce of energy that is inside of you. So the best thing you can do to help mononucleosis patients is give them love and supportive care. They just have to be willing and have the patience to let the infection take its natural course and be able to wait it out.

        You know that bed rest is good for mononucleosis patients, but could to much be harmful to them? The answer is yes; sometimes patients that are kept on bed rest for too long find it very challenging to adjust right back to their normal life style. Some people even find themselves suffering from clinical depression. So once about one week at the most has passed or once their fever has gone away get them out of bed. They can start by doing as many activities as their energy level can handle to keep them healthy. One thing you need to do is make sure they stay away from any kinds of steroids to give them more energy. At first they were prescribed thinking they helped speed up recovery and reduce pain, but now we know that was all just a myth and it would be very unhealthy to the patient.

        There are a variety of tests that are given to people who believe they are diagnosed with mononucleosis. The blood test that was used many decades ago was quite unique. They would take a sample of the patient's blood, and mix it with a sample of a sheep's blood; if the patient did have the mononucleosis virus then the sheep's blood cells would stick together. Of course today they have more complex ways to test for the infection. One is the Monospot-like test; this can take up to four weeks just to turn positive. This test is not the most frequently used for many reasons. It is useless on children younger than eight; also it could give you a false answer if you are infected with pancreatic cancer, malaria, or leukemia mainly because this test does not directly detect for the Epstein-Barr virus. The test detects heterophile antibodies which are not as accurate. The most common test that is given is called the Heterophile test. This test takes approximately one or two days that is why it was replaced by the Monospot-like test, it gives rapid results. Also this test is wanted more by patients and is the most popular among them. The last type of test you can have performed on you to confirm your case is called a Differential White Blood Cell Count. They test the number of white blood cells in your body and if your number is exceedingly high you have an excessive chance of being infected with mononucleosis.

        One thing that any athlete of any age never wants to hear is that they are diagnosed with mononucleosis. This is mainly because as soon as they hear those words they know they will be out for the entire rest of the sports season. The return to play rules are the exact same for any pro, college, or elementary athlete. This is because during the time of mononucleosis the greatest fear is an enlarged spleen that might rupture if they return to their sport too quickly. This will cause severe internal bleeding and they would need to be rushed to the emergency room right away. Therefore it is always advised that the doctor gives the young athletes as much information on playability as they can. At first any athlete is told to wait and see how long it takes for them to get all of their energy back, usually because the span of fatigue for every person is different. Eight to ten weeks is said to be the minimum amount you are required to wait before returning. No one usually ever has all their energy back in as little as three weeks, but for some reason a lot of the time athletes think they do, this is when spleen rupture is most likely to occur. Always remember especially if you are a parent of an athlete, make sure they are waiting for all their energy back to play again. All of the serious risks the athlete is taking are not worth putting the athlete's life on the line. So making sure if you notice just the slightest enlargement in their spleen you make them wait even longer to return. They will understand and realize what you are doing for them and end up thanking you after everything is all said and done.

        If it turns out that you get infected while you are pregnant don't worry. A lot of the time people think something will go wrong within the pregnancy, but that is just false information. There have not been a large amount of studies on this subject, but in all the studies there have been there are no differences in the birth and miscarriage rate. When they compare the groups of women the birth weights were very related, also the delivery time was about forty weeks in each group. So there is no need to worry at all if you are pregnant and become sick with mononucleosis.

        Complications from mononucleosis are pretty rare, but the most common one is dehydration. To keep from getting dehydrated make sure you urinate at least three times a day, drink a lot of fluids, and always make sure you have saliva in your mouth. Sometimes mononucleosis does get to the point where you cannot swallow anything, if this happens you are at risk for getting dehydrated. In some cases breathing becomes difficult because of the extreme swelling. Always remember you can talk to your health care provider even if it something little, like you start to feel intense abdominal pain or feel worse instead of better. Another complication is called Epstein-Barr Pneumonia caused by a large accumulation of fluid in the patient's lungs. This only usually occurs in anywhere from three to five percent of cases, and clears up on its own. In less than one percent of cases this infection will end up causing meningitis by spreading to the infected person's brain. As you can see complications are very rare, the death rate among patients is also extremely low, it happens to be less than a tenth of one percent. So you are not likely to ever die from having mononucleosis or even come remotely close to dying. In other countries beside the United States, there are many cancers linked to mononucleosis which can grow at exceedingly quick rates. Tumors will grow on people with mononucleosis also some people get infected with nasopharyngeal cancer. In the United States you never really have to fear these cancers at all they are the most common in all developing nations.

        The virus called mononucleosis infects about ninety-five percent of all the people on earth today. So as you know this disease is extremely common and you will get infected with it at some point of your life. You don't have to worry at all about getting deathly ill in the long run of the disease. If you are worried and want to try to prevent yourself from getting infected, just remember to always wash your hands, get plenty of sleep, and never drink after anyone no matter how close of a friend they are to you. If you can keep yourself healthy do it, because once you are infected you will feel pretty miserable and will just wish that you would have worked harder to keep your immune system healthy.

Bibliography Page

  • "Mononucleosis." Google Images. http://www.knowyourhealthmatters.com/images/mononucleosis.jpg (12/1/09)
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