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Infectious Mononucleosis
by Rebecca Borlik

Infectious mononucleosis is a disease that first enters a person's lymph glands in the neck and the throat, and attacks the lymphocytes. When this disease occurs, many other body parts are infected, because the lymph glands usually are the killers of bacteria invading the area.

Infectious mononucleosis is contagious because it spreads by contact with an infected person through the mouth or throat. Mononucleosis is often called the 'kissing disease' because of the common belief that it is passed from one person to another through oral contact. No one knows why mononucleosis spreads to some people and not others. The virus that causes mononucleosis, or mono, is called the Epstein-Barr virus after the scientists that found it in the mid-1960s. When the virus attacks the lymphocytes, the white blood cells change shape, multiply, and eventually cause a reaction. The reaction does take some time to occur because many cells have to joint together before a reaction will occur.

Mono is susceptible to anyone, but is highly susceptible to people between the ages of ten and thirty-five. Many times, the disease it hard to distinguish because its first symptoms are so similar to a common cold. However, if the symptoms seem to worsen, last for more than two weeks, and cause excessive tiredness, then mono may be the diagnosis. The first symptoms of the disease is a drowsy feeling, as well as a fever, and a mild sore throat. Swollen lymph glands around the throat or neck are signs of the contagious viral infection called infectious mononucleosis. Usually the body produces white blood cells to fight infections and sickness, but in this case, the white blood cells are the problem, so when the body produces more of them, the infection worsens. The major symptoms usually disappear within two to three weeks, but the tiredness mono causes lasts for a few weeks after that. Depression is also an effect of mono. Some recoveries can take up to six months to completely rid of the disease.

Mononucleosis is a difficult disease to diagnose because of the similarities it shares with other diseases. Mono is diagnosed from the study of the patients blood. Two blood samples are usually taken two weeks apart. The first blood sample is taken to see if the is too many white blood cells present, if the white blood cells are shaped differently, and if the immune system is making antibodies to fight the original Epstein-Barr virus. The second blood test is taken to see if the white blood cell count is still abnormally high. Both tests have to be taken in order to diagnose the infectious mononucleosis disease.

Many escape the disease without complications, but some of the mono victims are not as lucky. If the mono infection spreads to other parts of the body beyond the lymph glands, serious consequences may result. Mono can lead to a yellow discoloration if the skin called jaundice. It can also lead to infection in the liver, or hepatitis. Sometimes the disease causes a tender pain in the stomach area that may be an enlarged spleen. If this is the case, the spleen may burst and cause major damage internally. If the disease is diagnosed early, then there will be less of a chance of complications developing.

The treatment for infectious mononucleosis with no complications is mainly to relax and drink lots of water and fruit juice. A person should stay indoors until the body's temperature returns to normal. Then a person can gradually return to their normal activities as they gain back their strength. To prevent a reoccurrence, a patient should never continue their normal activities until at least a month after the disease begins. Antibiotics do not aid in the recovery of mono because it's a virus and doesn't respond to antibiotics. Time is the only cure for this disease. Sometimes, if there are complications, antibiotics have to be used to reduce swelling. Aspirin can also lessen discomfort if the patient has a high temperature. With proper care and attention, mono can be treated and a person can return to their good health without too much suffering.

Infectious mononucleosis can be very uncomfortable in patients and can become serious if not treated correctly. When a patient has symptoms of mono, it is best to get him or her diagnosed so that they may get the proper treatment before any complication occur. Even if the patient is not diagnosed with mono, it is best to take these steps, because being safe is better than being sorry.


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