When the "Kissing Disease" limits other activities as well....
December 2, 2009 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for information/anecdotal experience about the possibility of spreading infectious mononucleosis (i.e. Mono or Glandular Fever) through other sexual contact. I know the virus is transmitted through saliva, but could general close contact or other bodily fluids spread it as well? In addition, is it true that once one has shown symptoms of mono before, they still have the virus but are unlikely to have symptoms again (like chicken pox)?

On the plus side, my infection doesn't seem to be too bad. Mild sore throat and general tiredness. I'm still able to work and such. But on the down-side, I just started dating this guy whom I really really like. Our dating has already been set back by the flu and extended-vacation time. I am very irritated that now this has come up as well. I will absolutely tell him that I am sick, but I just wanted to know ahead of time what sort of options we might have to work around it. I am also hoping that maybe hell say he has already had it, and so he doesn't have to worry about re-exposure from me.
posted by CTORourke to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
My youngest brother got mono a little white ago and we were given a lot of information about it. The wikipedia page is accurate and useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infectious_mononucleosis#Pathophysiology

Mono is passed through saliva specifically, not through other bodily fluids. I doubt very much that if you have mono you'll feel up to sex, though (everyone I know who's had it basically slept for two weeks straight). Plus, you need to keep away from strenuous activity and "contact sports" because you could rupture your spleen (so if sex is a contact sport for you, be careful!).

And yes, it is a bit like the chicken pox.
posted by audacity at 12:18 PM on December 2, 2009

I think it would be rather difficult in practice to differentiate those kinds of infection vectors. Anyone exchanging sexual fluids almost certainly are kissing one another as well.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2009

I had a very bad case of mono in college and managed to squeak by without any of my three roommates or my boyfriend catching it, but we were extremely vigilant about cleaning everything, hand washing, and absolutely no fluid exchange (either innocent or racy). My symptoms started out like yours, but eventually the tiredness set in and my throat hurt so much that pretty much the only boyfriend contact I was interested in or up for was lying in bed together and watching TV. And falling asleep while watching TV.

I was also told that I wouldn't be able to get it again, and indeed I haven't. It's been about ten years now and I have been around other people with mono, for what it's worth.
posted by miskatonic at 12:30 PM on December 2, 2009

I'm a biologist but I am not a medical doctor, and have not had clinical training of any kind.

The virus behind it, Epstein Barr Virus, lives in your imune cells and your tonsils so it's only really possible to pass it on via saliva. It's also worth noting that it only really causes symptoms if you're infected during or after puberty, and only during the first time you're infected. After that first infection you'll be carrying the virus for the rest of your life (it sets up a stable population inside some of your immune cells), but you almost certainly won't have any cause to care about it. You should only expect it to start kicking off again if you have some other disease that disrupts your immune cells e.g. malaria or HIV, and even then it's far from garuanteed.

It's a bit freaky to think about (OMG I'm infected forever!), but once the first infection is over it's even less noteworthy than loads of other things that infect us forever, like cold sores (caused by the herpes simplex virus, which sets up a permanent reservoir of infection in one or more nerves) or a love of watching lawn bowls (which science cannot explain).

I haven't looked at the USA data, but in the UK something like 50-60% of people manage to become infected before puberty and will therefore never have symptoms. So be careful not to infect your new boy, but there's a decent chance that he's already infected and therefore safe from developing symptoms anyway.
posted by metaBugs at 12:33 PM on December 2, 2009

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