Epstein-Barr Virus Essay Sample
The Epstein-Barr virus, also known as EBV, is a very common virus. The virus can infect infants as soon as the antibody protection that is present at birth fades. Children routinely become infected with the virus, but this normally causes no symptoms or very minor symptoms that are often mistaken for other brief childhood ailments.
About 35% to 50% of individuals who are first infected in their late teens or early adulthood will develop infectious mononucleosis. By the time an American adult reaches 40 years old, they have a 95% chance of having been infected by this virus sometime during their life. This virus does occur world-wide, and the majority of people in all countries will become infected at some point (Centers for Disease Control [CDC] 2007, p.1).
The virus requires contact with the saliva of an infected person to spread. The virus is not normally transmitted through the air or through other bodily fluids, such as blood. The virus has an incubation period of about 6 weeks. Even though those afflicted with infectious mononucleosis are able to transmit the disease for weeks, no precautions are needed or suggested. The virus infects almost all adults. These adults pass the virus on throughout their lives, making it nearly impossible to stop the spread of Epstein-Barr (CDC 2007, p. 1).
While mononucleosis is the most common disease caused by the virus, there are others that are more serious. Epstein-Barr has been implicated in Burkitt’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal cancer. Since the virus remains dormant in the person so infected, these diseases can occur at any time. While both of these cancers are fairly rare, and with the extreme incidence of infection, it is doubtful that Epstein-Barr is the sole cause of these two cancers. That being said, it does appear that the virus plays a part in these diseases (CDC 2007, p. 1).
The symptoms for infectious mononucleosis include fever, sore throat, drowsiness, muscle aches and pains, and swollen lymph nodes. Less often, the symptoms might include headache, cough, chest pain, tachycardia, and hives. During a physical examination, a physician may find a swollen liver or spleen, or swollen tonsils. Lab tests may show an elevated white blood cell count. Liver functions may also be abnormal (National Institute for Health [NIH] 2006, p. 2). A positive reaction to the virus in a “mono spot” test is also of diagnostic significance. If the reaction is negative, additional tests should be performed to eliminate diseases that have symptoms that mimic mononucleosis.
There is no specific treatment for mononucleosis. What treatment is given is aimed at mitigating the symptoms. Steroids have been prescribed to decrease the swelling of the tonsils and throat. The usual duration for steroid use is 5 days. Symptoms can last for as little as 6 weeks or as long as four, and sometimes six, months (CDC 2007, p. 2).
The Epstein-Barr virus most commonly causes infectious mononucleosis. In addition, it has been implicated in two different malignancies. The vast majority of American adults carry the virus, which is only spread through contact with saliva. There is no efficient means available to prevent the spread of this virus. There is also no specific treatment aimed at the virus itself. Symptoms can recede in as little as 6 weeks or take as long as 6 months to disappear.
Centers for Disease Control. (2007). Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis.
Retrieved June 2, 2007 from The National Center for Infectious Diseases Web site:
National Institute of Health. (2006). Mononucleosis. Retrieved June 2, 2007 from The
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