Caused by a virus called Epstein-Barr, glandular fever is a common infectious illness. It is also known as infectious mononucleosis (shortened to ‘mono’) or the “kissing disease”.
This is because the virus is transmitted through saliva. It can also passed on through airborne droplets through coughing, sneezing or sharing infected drink bottles, cups or cutlery. It occurs most commonly in teenagers and young adults.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The incubation period for glandular fever is 30 to 50 days, which means symptoms will take a long time to show after time of infection.
Starting gradually with fatigue, symptoms can include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Swollen tonsils
- Muscle aches
Symptoms can last for weeks or even months, particularly fatigue.
In some cases glandular fever can cause an enlarged spleen, inflammation of the liver and jaundice. Other rare complications include meningitis or pneumonia.
In younger children, symptoms may be more flu-like or even non-existent. In fact, many people are exposed to the virus during childhood unknowingly and develop immunity. It is estimated 90% of adults have been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus.
Glandular fever can be diagnosed by a GP and confirmed through a blood test.
Because it is a virus, antibiotics are ineffective for glandular fever. There is no specific treatment beyond getting rest and staying hydrated.
Taking over the counter pain relief or cold and flu medications can help alleviate symptoms.
There is no vaccine for the Epstein-Barr virus. Due to the long incubation and infectious period of glandular fever there is no restriction period from school or childcare.
As with any illness, good personal hygiene and sickness etiquette is the best way to limit transmission of the virus.