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Glandular Fever

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Glandular fever is known by many different names that includes infectious mononucleosis, ‘mono’, Pfeiffer’s disease, Filatov’s disease, or the kissing disease. It is a common viral disease and usually spreads through saliva. The disease commonly affects teenagers as well as young adults.

What is Glandular Fever?

Glandular fever is a viral disease  that is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This virus is a type of herpes virus. Once a person is infected with EBV, it remains within the body without causing recurrent infections. About 90-95% adults are said to have contracted EBV. The disease is very common in people of the age group within 10 and 25 years.

Glandular fever causes flu-like symptoms, that vary in severity. The fever usually gets better without any treatment. In most cases, the infected person does not even realize having been infected with glandular fever, as they never develop any symptoms.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Glandular Fever?

The symptom of glandular fever may never appear in some people. This type of infection is called as the subclinical infection. The incubation period o glandular fever is quite long. The first symptoms usually appear about 4 to 8 weeks after the initial exposure to the virus.

The symptoms are worse in the initial stages. They gradually mellow down after about 3 weeks. However, the duration and severity of the symptoms are quite different in different individuals. In children, the symptoms are quite mild, whereas, older people have more severe symptoms.

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Some of the symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Physical as well as mental weakness
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and groin
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Blotchy red rash in some people
  • Jaundice, in very few cases

How Does Glandular Fever Spread?

The virus spreads from person to person through saliva. The most common way for transfer of the virus is kissing. Thus, it is commonly called as the kissing disease. The virus can also spread through airborne droplets after one coughs or sneezes.

Diagnosis for Glandular Fever

The diagnosis includes taking a medical history of the patient as well as the physical examination, that includes:

  • Checking the throat for redness as well as swelling of the tonsils
  • Observing a rash, especially on the chest
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Fever

The doctor may conduct blood tests to check the presence of Epstein-Barr virus, after a few days. This is because the virus is not found in the blood test during the early stages of the infection.

Treatment for Glandular Fever

As this is a viral infection, there is no specific treatment for glandular fever. Antibiotics are not very helpful in this case. However, the condition is mostly self-limiting. During this time, one must take plenty of rest and drink a lot of fluids. The doctor may recommend paracetamol for pain relief. One should avoid strenuous activity as well as exercises for at least 4 weeks as it may damage the enlarged spleen. Gargling with salt water will help give relief from sore throat. Avoid alcohol completely, to avoid liver damage.

Complications Related to Glandular Fever

Glandular fever can lead to certain complications if the virus affects certain body organs. These include:

  • Myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscles)
  • Pericarditis (inflammation of the sac around the heart)
  • Pneumonia
  • Spleen rupture
  • Encephalitis

Glandular fever is a common viral infection. It resolves on its own within 3 weeks. However, in about 3% cases, the condition extends and may lead to complications. Once a person catches the disease, they will develop lifelong immunity against it. For more information, speak to your GP and get your queries solved.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 18, 2015

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