The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a potential cause of mononucleosis, or “mono.” However, other viruses can also cause this condition.

EBV and mononucleosis are not the same. EBV is a virus, while mono is a disease. EBV can lead to mono, but not always.

Over 90% of all humans contract EBV at some point, but it often causes no symptoms. Only some people who get the virus will develop mono.

Keep reading to learn more about how EBV and mono are different, how common they are, how serious EBV is, and whether it can cause other conditions.

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EBV is not the same as mono, but the two share links.

EBV is a very common virus belonging to the herpesvirus family. It is also known as herpesvirus 4 and spreads through contact with saliva and bodily fluids.

People can get EBV from kissing, sexual contact, coughing, sneezing, or sharing personal items, such as cutlery. However, it often causes no symptoms.

In young adults and adolescents, EBV can cause infectious mononucleosis, which is also known as mono or the “kissing disease,” due to how it can spread.

EBV is not the only virus that can cause mono, but it is the most common reason people develop this disease. Other causes include:

Glandular fever is another name for mono. It refers to the disease rather than the virus that causes it.

As a result, EBV can cause glandular fever, but they are not the same.

EBV is extremely common. Research suggests that nearly 95% of the world’s adult population has contracted the virus.

In some regions, infection can occur during childhood, while in others, it tends to occur during adolescence or early adulthood.

EBV can cause no symptoms and does not always lead to mono. In people who get mono, symptoms usually go away on their own. The rate of complications is low.

The symptoms of mono can develop 4–6 weeks after a person contracts the virus that causes it. The symptoms may include:

  • extreme fatigue
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • whole body aches

Less commonly, people can develop an enlarged spleen and liver.

Most individuals recover within 4 weeks but may continue to feel fatigued for several more. Occasionally, symptoms can linger for 6 months or more.

A small percentage may develop complications, including severe cases of mono, splenic rupture, liver inflammation, or even certain cancers.

Yes, it is possible to have EBV in the body without developing mono. Many individuals get the virus without experiencing symptoms.

Most people contract EBV during childhood or adolescence. They may never develop discernible symptoms of mono or any other condition and instead remain free from symptoms throughout their lives. However, they can still transmit EBV to others through their saliva and other body fluids.

Doctors are unsure why some individuals develop mono while others do not. The severity and duration of symptoms appear to relate more to certain immune system responses rather than the presence of the virus alone.

Individuals with mono tend to have an exaggerated CD8+ cell response to EBV. CD8+ cells are part of the immune system. This suggests that it is the immune system’s overreaction to EBV, rather than the virus itself, that causes the symptoms of mono.

Once an individual contracts EBV, the virus does not entirely leave the body. Instead, it becomes latent or dormant, remaining in the body throughout a person’s life. EBV stays primarily within B lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell.

Under some circumstances, EBV can become active again. Factors such as stress, a compromised immune system, or other infections can prompt the virus to reawaken from its dormant state. When reactivation occurs, the individual may experience symptoms.

Mono is not the only condition EBV can cause. The virus has links to a long list of other conditions, some of which are serious.

Though the vast majority of people with EBV never develop these conditions, they are possible. Those with immune system issues are more likely to get them. They include individuals who have:

EBV also appears to increase the risk of certain cancers, including Burkitt’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the most common cause of mononucleosis, but they are not the same, and other viruses can also cause the condition. Similarly, not everyone with EBV gets mono.

Other names for mononucleosis include mono, glandular fever, and the kissing disease. These all refer to the same illness. While nearly 95% of people have EBV, many have no symptoms, with only some developing health conditions because of it.

Most people who get mono recover on their own with rest. However, the symptoms can linger for several weeks or months in some cases. Once the symptoms resolve, the EBV stays in the body in an inactive state, though it may reactivate under certain circumstances.