There are so many viruses out there that it can be hard to stay away from them all. Everyone probably contracts a virus at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, the Epstein Barr virus is a common one. Keep reading to find out more about this virus and symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
About the Epstein Barr Virus
The Epstein Barr virus is part of the human herpesvirus family. It only affects humans, and the scientific name for it is herpesvirus 4 or HHV-4. This virus is widespread and causes one of the most common and well-known infections – infectious mononucleosis.
Most people refer to infectious mononucleosis as mono or the kissing disease. It’s very contagious, but not everyone who is exposed to the virus will develop symptoms. It’s commonly contracted through the spread of bodily fluids like saliva, hence the nickname.
It also is one of the infections that can cause infected tonsils, or tonsilitis.
Epstein Barr Virus Statistics
It may surprise you to learn that most people contract this virus during their lifetime, usually in childhood. In fact, scientists and medical experts believe that over 90 percent of the worldwide population has contracted the virus. However, most people aren’t aware of it because not everyone experiences symptoms.
Treatment for the virus is usually straightforward, so there isn’t a high death rate from the virus. However, in some cases, the virus can cause cancer, and there are a small number of deaths from this globally.
In a study done by researchers at United Arab Emirates University, it was shown that in 2010 only about 1.8% of worldwide cancer-related deaths were caused by the virus. This is a meager number, but it’s over 14% higher than 20 years before that.
Perhaps if more people learn about the virus’s symptoms and how it spreads, this rate can begin to decline before it becomes a serious global issue. Below are 15 symptoms to look out for that may indicate you have the virus.
15 Symptoms of the Epstein Barr Virus You Shouldn’t Ignore
Watch for these red flags if you suspect you have this viral infection.
Anytime you have a fever, it’s a serious issue. Fevers occur from many different conditions, including the Epstein Barr virus. The key is identifying the fever and getting to a doctor in a decent time frame. Generally, any temperature above 100.4°F is considered a fever. If it gets higher than 103°F or your fever lasts longer than three days, you should get to a doctor as soon as possible.
2. Extreme Fatigue
You may become so tired that it seems like you can’t get enough sleep. It will be a different kind of tired than the norm – your entire body might feel like a weight that you’re dragging around. This is a clear sign that something is wrong.
A rash isn’t a common symptom of the virus, but it can happen. In fact, there are certain types of rashes that can indicate the virus or mono:
- Maculopapular rash – flat pinkish-red spots on the skin may have small, raised, and pinkish-red lesions.
- Petechiae – flat, small, reddish-purple dots. Occurs in the mouth half of the time.
- Antibiotic rash – occurs after being mistakenly diagnosed with strep throat and taking antibiotics.
All that fatigue and fever can lead to you feeling weak. Your body is battling a strong virus, and the last energy you have left will be dedicated to that. You won’t be able to do as much as you normally do.
After developing the prior symptoms, you may develop a headache. The headache from this virus is characterized as a chronic tension-type headache. Thankfully it’s not as bad as a migraine, but it’s very persistent.
6. Lack of Appetite
Your body is going through some serious changes, so it’s no surprise that you would have a loss of appetite. In fact, you may eat so little that you experience weight loss. Most people would be glad to drop a few pounds, but it’s preferable if it’s not due to a virus.
7. Sore Throat
The virus is most often contracted from kissing or some other activity that involves swapping saliva. Sharing utensils is an example. Because of that, it invades the throat first. That’s why a sore throat is most often the first symptom of the virus.
8. Body Aches
Body aches are common with most viruses. The Epstein Barr virus is no exception. In addition to headaches, your muscles may feel chronically sore.
9. Swollen Tonsils
The virus may invade your throat and make it to your tonsils. This can cause sore, swollen tonsils. You may see red or white pus bumps on the back of your throat and tonsils. This often causes doctors to identify the condition as strep throat incorrectly.
This is a less common symptom of the virus, but if this happens to you, consider that you may have the virus. The condition is known as mono hepatitis, and people who develop this tend to be sicker than others. The good news is that the liver usually makes a full recovery.
11. Swollen Spleen
A swollen spleen is also a symptom, though not a common one. In rare cases, about two out of every 1,000 cases, the spleen may rupture. This requires immediate medical attention.
Jaundice can occur if you have mono hepatitis. It happens when bile enters the bloodstream because the liver is not properly filtering it out. It’s easily spotted – it can cause your eyeballs, skin, and nails to turn yellow.
13. Swollen Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes often swell when they are swamped with some foreign invading entity like a virus. On top of that, you may have bile floating around from jaundice. All of this can clog your lymph nodes, causing them to function improperly.
With all the things that can happen to you due to the virus, it should be no surprise that you may experience nausea. You may have toxic waste floating around your body, which can cause an adverse reaction to your digestive system. This may also contribute to a poor appetite.
Vomiting isn’t a common symptom, but it can occur in the worst cases. Just like with nausea, you may have toxins reacting badly to your digestive system. Your body may try to get rid of these toxins through vomit.
Getting Over the Virus and/or Mono
If you get this virus, it will take you from 6 to 8 months to completely get over it. Luckily the worst of it will be over a lot quicker than that with treatment (a few weeks). The most important thing is identifying it early before the virus does some serious damage to your system.
Diagnosing the Virus
Your doctor may diagnose the virus by a physical examination or through lab tests. The most common test is called a heterophile antibody test. Your doctor may also order a complete blood count, which gives information on how your immune system handles the virus.
If you’re asymptomatic or you have mild symptoms, your doctor may not give you any type of treatment other than a suggestion of taking it easy. After all, there is no treatment or cure for viruses of any kind. Treating it with antibiotics can lead to a rash (stated above).
If you have severe symptoms, your doctor can treat the symptoms without treating the virus. Treatments can include pain medication, fever-reducers, and more. The best treatment is lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids.
You can relax knowing that it’s rare for serious complications to occur. However, if they do you must seek medical attention immediately. Some examples of severe complications include:
- Meningoencephalitis – a neurological infection.
- Ruptured spleen (mentioned)
- Extreme tonsillar enlargement – much worse than swollen tonsils
In the case of meningoencephalitis, the symptoms will be much more “neurologically” specific. They can include confusion, disorientation, neck pain, light sensitivity, unusual behavior, and other cognitive difficulties.
It’s amazing that so many people have been infected with the Epstein Barr virus and didn’t know about it. With all the symptoms that it can cause, it’s hard to imagine that a person wouldn’t know they’re sick. However, some people are lucky and only experience mild symptoms or none at all.
Most symptoms of the virus are common symptoms of many other infections and diseases. It may be hard for you to pinpoint the virus on your own. However, these 15 symptoms or any combination of them should prompt you to visit your doctor. They’ll be able to identify them and give you the proper treatment to get you feeling as good as new.