Epstein-Barr Virus Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

Epstein-Barr (EBV) is considered a widespread human herpes virus and is very common in the United States; in fact, 95% of the population has been infected with EBV. EBV generally occurs in childhood or early adulthood. EBV causes mononucleosis which is associated with a fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and an enlarged spleen.

Epstein-Barr symptoms are usually milder, but once you have EBV it remains in your body for life. It usually lays dormant in a person’s body, but a healthy person who has it can spread the virus to uninfected people through saliva. This is how mononucleosis got coined as the kissing disease. EBV can play a role in the causing of certain cancers, lymphomas and nasopharyngeal cancer.


Epstein-Barr can lay dormant in an individual’s system, but it is contagious. EBV is spread person to person through saliva. The virus itself is able to multiply in a person’s system. EBV is likely to go unnoticed in an individual unless their immune system has been compromised and it is not functioning properly.


*The symptoms may go unnoticed at first because they resemble a cold or the flu. The symptoms for EBV can take anywhere from four-six weeks for the symptoms to appear.
Symptoms in Children

  • Low white blood counts
  • Nonspecific symptoms
  • Pneumonia
  • Rashes *occasionally

Symptoms in Teens and Young Adults

*Many teens and young adults develop symptoms of mononucleosis.

  • Bloating
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Sweats
  • Swollen tonsils

*These symptoms can leave within a matter of days or they may take several weeks to dissipate. In some individuals fatigue can last for weeks after the initial infection.

A small percentage of infected individuals will have neurological complications. Some individuals can have inflammation of the brain, encephalitis or meningitis, inflammation of the lining, and yet others may have inflammation of the nerves.

In rare cases the spinal cord can become inflamed. EBV can be associated with the condition of hairy leukoplakia which forms a white plaque on the sides of the tongue. This is common amongst AIDs patients and other individuals that have compromised immune systems.

Chronic infection with EBV is considered to be possibly related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
These symptoms would include:

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Generalized pain
  • Lack of energy


Epstein-Barr can be diagnosed by several antibody tests. Antibody levels may rise during an acute infection. Other blood can be drawn over a period of time to compare the samples. Most people who contact EBV recover completely from it within 1-3 months. Overtime most neurological problems resolve themselves. Few individuals suffer from long term complications, but in some cases the virus can last longer than 6 months and is classified as Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus (CEBV.)


*If the symptoms are mild they can be treated at home.

Home treatments

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • OTC pain medications *in the cases of mono
  • Rest and sleep

Reasons to seek medical treatment

  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Jaundice
  • Persistent fever

Once EBV has been contracted it remains in an individual’s blood, cells and throat for the remainder of their lives. At this time there is no specific protocol for preventing EBV. It is usually not reactivated unless a person’s immune system has been compromised.

Have you had any experiences with the Epstein-Barr virus? Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.


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