Kissing disease, mono, or infectious mononucleosis, is a contagious condition wherein the virus causing the disease is transmitted through saliva that can be treated by a family care doctor. Even though it is usually associated with kissing, the virus infection can also spread through coughing and sneezing, or by sharing a cup, a glass, or any other food utensil.

Mononucleosis is not as contagious as common cold or flu, and the infection in young children often goes unrecognized because of its few symptoms. However, the disease can affect teenagers and young adults with its all signs and symptoms, and can sometimes lead to serious complications like an enlarged spleen. Therefore, it is advised to look for the below symptoms and seek medical help as soon as anything seems suspicious.

Common symptoms of kissing disease include:

  • Fever, headache, and sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen tonsils and spleen
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and underarms
  • Skin rashes

Usually, the virus has an incubation period of around 4 – 6 weeks, but it can be shorter in younger children. The symptoms like fever and sore throat typically lessen within a few days, but fatigue and the swelling in spleen and lymph nodes may last for 2 – 3 weeks more. Therefore, if the above symptoms do not get better within a week or two, you should consult with a specialist at a nearby community health care center to learn about your treatment options.

Causes and Complications

Epstein-Barr virus is the most common cause of kissing disease, although it can happen due to other virus infections also. Most of the time, the symptoms of the disease resolve on its own, and have no long-term effects on the person. Nonetheless, the complications it might lead to can be very serious sometimes.

The enlargement of the spleen is the main complication caused by mononucleosis. In worst cases, it may even cause the spleen to rupture, thereby leading to sudden pain in the abdomen. Then there is the risk of liver inflammation, hepatitis, and jaundice as well. In some rare cases, kissing disease can also result in a decrease in RBC and hemoglobin content in the blood, while a low count of platelets is also reported to occur occasionally as a result of Epstein-Barr virus infection.

Myocarditis or inflammatory cardiomyopathy, encephalitis, meningitis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome are the other rare complications associated with mononucleosis. These can be particularly serious in people with weaker immune systems, such as those diagnosed with an HIV infection by a Los Angeles HIV AIDS doctor.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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