Indirect Mononucleosis Transmission?
February 2, 2009 6:43 AM   Subscribe

My friend has mononucleosis. He shared a drink with a friend of mine who had mono several years ago. I later shared a fork with this latter friend. Is there a chance that I was exposed? Could my friend have been carrying the disease even if she can't contract again? I'm freaking out a little. In a couple weeks I'm going to start an intensive program that's 12 hours in the classroom a day for about a month, and the absolute last thing I need is to come down with mono. Ahh!
posted by howgenerica to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
If your 2nd friend had mono before then he has antibodies to it and cant get infected again and I doubt he could be a carrier without infection.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:49 AM on February 2, 2009

They've found recently that mononucleosis (caused by Epstein-Barr Virus) can spread by airborne contact as well, not just saliva.
Also, it's possible for someone to be contagious for up to 18 months after their symptoms end.

But still, the chances of you getting it from one small saliva contact are probably not very good. And you usually don't get sick for a while after you're initially infected.
posted by fructose at 7:41 AM on February 2, 2009

From the CDC:

"Epstein-Barr virus, frequently referred to as EBV, is a member of the herpesvirus family and one of the most common human viruses... EBV also establishes a lifelong dormant infection in some cells of the body's immune system.

Most individuals exposed to people with infectious mononucleosis have previously been infected with EBV and are not at risk for infectious mononucleosis. In addition, transmission of EBV requires intimate contact with the saliva (found in the mouth) of an infected person. Transmission of this virus through the air or blood does not normally occur. The incubation period, or the time from infection to appearance of symptoms, ranges from 4 to 6 weeks. Persons with infectious mononucleosis may be able to spread the infection to others for a period of weeks. However, no special precautions or isolation procedures are recommended, since the virus is also found frequently in the saliva of healthy people. In fact, many healthy people can carry and spread the virus intermittently for life. These people are usually the primary reservoir for person-to-person transmission. For this reason, transmission of the virus is almost impossible to prevent."

So, yes, you could have been exposed. Your possible transmission would have been from the fork friend, who is in the "life-long dormant infection" stage. Good news is that you've probably been exposed to EBV before, that the incubation period is 4-6 weeks, and that, unless your friend is particularly drooly, sharing a fork is not equivalent to playing tonsil hockey.

So stop freaking out. There's nothing you can do now, and further stress will just wear down your immune system.

IANAD. I share drinks with friends who have had mono.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:57 AM on February 2, 2009

Life-long dormant stage doesnt mean everyone who has ever had mono is always infectious. Almost every virus you ever defeat sits dormant in you. The question boils to "I kissed someone who kissed someone who has mono. Do I have mono?" Im sure its possible, but is very unlikely.

What you should be doing is asking your doctor.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:20 AM on February 2, 2009

I disagree you should ask doctors this kind of speculative question. A doctor will say, if you get some symptoms, come see me.
My understanding of mono is that many are exposed, it is people with compromised immune systems that get the illness. So, I personally wouldn't worry about a single exposure to it. Odds are you've been exposed to it other times.
In fact, I think there is some evidence that exposure is helpful in preventing illness. People that don't get exposed in the past (think middle class kids that have their own room) that then move into roommate situations (college) are the most common types of mono cases.
posted by alkupe at 11:40 AM on February 2, 2009

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