Infectious mononucleosis, usually called simply “mono,” is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a type of herpes virus. Other herpes viruses cause cold sores and chickenpox. Mono usually strikes between 15 and 25 years of age, but can be caught younger.
It affects the lymph nodes, throat, salivary glands, and abdominal organs such as the liver and spleen. A general feeling of fatigue and a lack of appetite are common symptoms, along with fever, sore throat or muscles, swollen lymph glands, headache, and even an enlarged liver or spleen.
The EBV virus is usually spread by contact with saliva, such as contact with toothbrushes, drinking straws, shared food, silverware, water bottles, or lipstick. A person can spread the disease even when symptoms are not present.
Treatment usually includes plenty of rest and fluids, non-aspirin pain relievers for fever. The infection usually subsides in a few weeks, though care should continue to avoid saliva-contacting items and practices.