Mononucleosis: How Long is it Contagious?

Mono (also known as infectious mononucleosis, or “the kissing disease”) is a viral infection that spreads readily, especially among teenagers and young adults. In fact, it is most common among college students, perhaps because they often live in close proximity while at school.
Several Potential Causes
Mono may be caused by any one of several different viruses. It is most commonly  caused by infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV is actually one of the most common viruses that infect humans all over the world: About 90% of all adults show evidence of past exposure to the virus. While the virus continues to live in the body indefinitely after infection, it is only capable of infecting others for a limited period, primarily in the weeks before initial symptoms develop, and for at least several weeks afterward, while the individual is noticeably sick.
The colloquial name, “the kissing disease,” hints at the fact that the viruses linked to mono are most often transmitted through saliva. These viruses can also be transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids (including through sexual activity). Simply sharing drinks, unwashed utensils, or a toothbrush could be enough to transmit the disease from an infected person to someone else. Experts believe the virus may remain active on objects for about as long as the objects remain moist. Needless to say, young people should be advised to avoid practices such as sharing food, drinks, or utensils, to minimize their risk of exposure.
What Are the Symptoms of Mono?
Regardless of which virus causes the disease, symptoms most often include:

  • extreme fatigue
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, however. In fact, a majority of those infected will experience no noticeable symptoms at all.
How Long Is Mono Infectious?
Unfortunately, it is possible to transmit the disease even before symptoms arise, during the incubation period. This can last for about four to seven weeks. In most cases, the person then remains infectious for several weeks longer. But the disease manifests differently from one person to the next and some individuals may take months to recover. In theory, they could remain infectious for at least that long. Even worse, experts believe that a person who has apparently recovered from mono may remain infectious for far longer than symptoms persist; up to 18 months afterward, or longer.
The best advice, then, is to minimize potential exposures by scrupulously avoiding contact with anything that may have come into contact with other people’s saliva. Obviously, this means college students and other young people should be cautioned to never share drinks or toiletries. Remind them that hand washing is one of the most important things anyone can do to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
When Should You Seek Help?
If you are experiencing extreme fatigue or any of the above symptoms that last longer than three days or get worse, it is important to visit your primary care provider, or visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care. The medical team at PhysicianOne Urgent Care will be able to evaluate your symptoms, and suggest the best treatment options should the diagnosis be Mono. PhysicianOne Urgent Care is here 7 days per week for high-quality urgent care, at a fraction of the cost of the Emergency Room. Contact us at 1.855.349.2828, or stop in today for a convenient, walk-in visit. If you’re looking to save time, find a location near you and check in online today!

Health News + Events

What to Expect With COVID-19 & Back-to-School Protocols

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, it turned life upside down for more than 50 million school-age children across the country. In fact, according to Ed  Read More

TikTok Health Hacks: Safe or Sham?

No matter your preferred social media channel, you’ve likely seen viral health hacks for everything from congestion to snoring to weight loss. We turned to our team of certified  Read More

How to Treat a Dog Bite

Dogs are undoubtedly man’s best friend, but even the friendliest of creatures can sometimes get spooked or display aggressive behavior. Bites can even happen when giving an excit  Read More

What Our Patients Are Saying

Rating 4.6
Rating 4.2
Rating 4.6
Rating 5.0

"The overall care I received was excellent! I also appreciate your affiliation with Yale New Haven Hospital."

Derby, CT

"Throughout the visit I felt like the staff really cared. The Doctor took his time talking with me about my symptoms, and I felt like he listened to all my concerns and took that into consideration when recommending the right treatment. Thank you!"

Hamden, CT

"I had to take my son in for an ear infection following a sudden change in temperament at daycare. He was inconsolable the entire car ride but when we got there and by the time we left this care facility he was back to his normal happy go lucky little two year old boy. I highly recommend PhysicianOne Urgent Care."

Westwood, MA

"I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the attention you gave me last week. My son was started on antibiotics and ear drops. Within 24 hours he began to feel better. The poor kid had been going to school in tears because he was afraid of missing any more days, but feeling (and looking) just awful! He's not been able to even think about lacrosse practice, but thanks to starting him on antibiotics, he was thrilled to return to practice today."

Somers, NY