Is there treatment available?


    Because the Epstein-Barr virus has such a diverse range of symptoms it can be difficult for doctors to diagnosis it correctly.  The symptoms can resemble that of various severe illnesses such as cancer, diphtheria, and meningitis.  For this reason it is essential to get blood tests done to be sure the patient has Infectious Mononucleosis and not some other more serious disease.  The blood tests used to diagnose Mono are relatively quick and inexpensive.  If test results are positive it can eliminate the need for a stay in the hospital or further testing. 


    The blood test will try to detect the presence of heterophil antibodies in the blood.  These antibodies are heavily associated with the EB virus.  Using this method of diagnosis, the doctor can tell if the patient has Mono as early as the fourth day of infection and it rarely takes longer than the twenty first day.  Because these antibodies remain in the bloodstream for months after a case of Mono, it does not prove that this is the problem, but it does give a general idea.  It should also be noted that the number of these antibodies in the blood has nothing to do with the symptoms experienced or how severe they are.


    A "spot" test can also be performed in a short amount of time in the doctor's office.  A few drops of the patients blood is mixed with that of a horse's on a prepared slide.  If agglutination appears then the heterophil antibodies are present.  Sometimes this test may not work for individuals with rare symptoms, because these antibodies never develop completely.


    Patients who cannot have the "spot" test performed must go through extensive, and highly expensive blood work.  By measuring the effect of antibodies in the blood that are produced in response to EBV, a profile can be made.  The profile is highly accurate and can help patients with unusual symptoms diagnose their case of Mono.


    As of now there is no treatment available for Epstein-Barr virus infections.  Generally speaking the virus is self-limiting and usually goes away with bed rest for up to six weeks.  Limiting activities and strenuous work is also advised for three months after symptoms are gone, which is largely due to increase in spleen (and sometimes liver) size.  To go along with rest, a well balanced diet and plenty of fluids is also highly suggested.  Over the counter drugs such as Aspirin and acetaminophen can be given for general aches and pains, but there is no drug available to cure it completely.  In severe cases, prednisone can be used to lessen symptoms, but the drug has negative impacts on the patient so this method is not recommended unless there is an emergency.


To learn about how viruses become so numerous in the body click here!