Strictly speaking, the primary cause of mononucleosis is a strain of a common virus called the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This virus can also cause herpes, or the cold sores and blisters around and inside the mouth and along the genital area. The EBV is so common that an estimated 50% of 5-year-old kids in the US would have been infected, and almost all adults would have experienced mononucleosis. Fortunately, the human body is so adaptive it produces antibodies against EBV after being sick with “mono,” thus reducing a person’s chances of becoming infected again.
The EBV virus remains in the body after infecting a person, so it is highly possible that particles containing the virus are produced in bodily emissions, such as in saliva, mucus, and even in tears. The antibodies, however, prevent the person from feeling sick, but the virus can still be transmitted. Transferring fluid from one person to another, such as in intimate kissing, is a large cause of mononucleosis; this is why the sickness is sometimes dubbed as the “kissing disease.” The virus can also be transmitted in different situations, such as sharing a glass or a spoon with an infected person. Contact with virus-containing mucus and saliva is also a cause of mononucleosis, such as when a person is near a sneezing or a coughing person.
Another virus called the cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a cause of mononucleosis. Often, people infected with CMV experience some mono symptoms, but do not have the sickness as a whole. This is because both CMV and EBV belong in the same subfamily of virus. Just like EBV, the CMV will be carried in the body even after it has infected a person, but by then, the body would have developed an antibody against the virus.
One important risk factor in catching mononucleosis is the immune system. Generally, those with a weaker immune system are at risk of contracting the virus as compared to those with stronger immunities. This is why mononucleosis is diagnosed in children and adolescents more than in adults, as their immune system is weaker. Children also experience more severe symptoms, such as general weakness, fever, and sore throat. Adults may not even know they have mononucleosis and may just feel a little “down in the dumps.”
The kissing disease may indeed affect everyone, but people can still keep the cause of mononucleosis at bay, largely by protecting and improving their health. Eating a proper diet plus vitamin supplements will keep the body working properly. A full night’s rest will also help the body regenerate and improve the immune system.