Everything You Need To Know About Mono And Mono Testing

Infectious mononucleosis (frequently referred to as “mono”) is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), which is one of the most common viruses in the world.  In fact, 95% of the world’s adult population tests positive for EBV.

What are the symptoms of Mono?

The symptoms of mono include a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, a rash, and occasionally, a swollen spleen or liver. These symptoms are similar to those of the mild flu but are typically longer lasting.

How does Mono spread?

Mono is often called “the kissing disease” because it’s transmitted through saliva.  It’s most common in adolescents and young adults, and in settings where young people live in close quarters, such as college dorms and military barracks.

How do healthcare providers test for Mono?

There are two ways to test for mono.  The first is with a rapid mono test, a fingerstick test that runs in less than 10 minutes.  However, the rapid mono testing does have some limitations.  Accuracy rates can vary from 71-90%, and it misses up to 25% of cases of mono if the test is run too early or too late in the course. 

The second, and more accurate, way of testing for mono is to draw blood and send it out to the lab for EBV titers.  This test measures the levels of several different kinds of EBV antibodies to determine if a patient has ever been exposed to EBV in the past, as well as if they have an active or chronic EBV infection. Mono is typically an infection you can only get once in your life, so it’s important to let your healthcare provider know if you tested positive for mono in the past. 

Is there a cure or medication for Mono?

While there is no cure for the EBV virus, rest, over-the-counter pain medication and good nutrition can help patients feel better faster.  Also, patients with an enlarged spleen are advised to avoid contact sports, since a swollen spleen is more likely to rupture if a patient experiences abdominal trauma.

Most mono infections resolve on their own within a matter of weeks, though in rare cases, the symptoms can last up to six months.


Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant