Back to Top Skip to main content

‘Kissing disease’ exhausting, but it strikes only once

Mononucleosis is nicknamed the “kissing disease” because it’s spread through saliva. U.S. Navy Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Michael Zegarra shares the traditional first kiss with his wife Caterina Zegarra, after the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz pulled into port at Naval Base Kitsap, Washington, Dec. 10, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Greg Hall) Mononucleosis is nicknamed the “kissing disease” because it’s spread through saliva. Navy Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Michael Zegarra shares the traditional first kiss with his wife Caterina Zegarra, after the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz pulled into port at Naval Base Kitsap, Washington, Dec. 10, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Greg Hall)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Public Health

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Tremendous fatigue, a very sore throat and achy body – Cheryl vividly recalls how bad she felt after coming down with infectious mononucleosis, commonly called mono, during her sophomore year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

“I felt really dizzy, but it wasn’t just my head,” said Cheryl, whose last name isn’t being used to respect her privacy. “It was like my whole body was twirling around inside.”

Mono is a contagious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV. Spread through saliva, mono’s nickname is the “kissing disease.” But transmission of the virus isn’t limited to kissing; people can become infected by using someone else’s utensils or drinking from the same container, as Cheryl believes happened to her. She shared a cup with another member of the West Point orienteering team who later was diagnosed with mono ahead of Cheryl.

Teenagers and young adults are more likely than others to get mono. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of people in this age range who are exposed to EBV will develop mono.

“Over 90 percent of adults will have antibodies to mono – meaning, at some point in their lives they’ve been exposed,” said Dr. Jason Okulicz, an Air Force lieutenant colonel and chief of the Infectious Disease Service at San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas.

“It’s also possible to not have any symptoms, though that’s more likely for young children,” he said.

Symptoms can occur anywhere from four to six weeks after being infected, according to the CDC. Along with what Cheryl experienced, they can include swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits, a fever, and a rash.

As bad as patients might feel, mono is a self-limiting illness for the vast majority, Okulicz said. That means it resolves on its own, usually over several weeks.

“The fatigue might linger for a few weeks after that, but long-term effects on a person’s overall health are uncommon,” he said.

Another good thing about mono? It’s a one-and-done event. “With the flu, there are many different types and you can get infected numerous times over your lifetime,” Okulicz said. “But infectious mononucleosis doesn’t recur.”

One possible complication of mono is an enlarged spleen that can rupture when performing strenuous exercises or engaging in contact sports. That’s why, even though an enlarged spleen is rare, doctors recommend people with mono avoid these activities at least three or four weeks after illness, Okulicz said. Any mono patient experiencing abdominal pain should seek help immediately, he added.

Otherwise, Okulicz said, there’s not much to do for mono except offer supportive care: lozenges for a sore throat; over-the-counter medications for pain and fever; plenty of fluids to stay hydrated; and, of course, rest.

Cheryl spent a week in Keller Army Community Hospital recuperating. Classmates delivered her books and assignments so she could keep up with her schoolwork. She said she felt better by the time she was discharged, but it took several weeks before the fatigue went away.

“I didn’t realize how long it would take to feel like myself again,” she said.

You also may be interested in...

Vaccines: A public health success story

Article
8/7/2019
Tech Sgt. Joseph Anthony, medical technician with the 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, administers a vaccination to a member of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 336 Engineering Company Command and Control, Chemical Radiological and Nuclear Response Enterprise Team at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, April 11, 2019. Department of Defense-issued vaccinations are used to prevent a variety of diseases that military members may encounter in the course of their duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert)

Maintaining a medically ready force is just one of many reasons to vaccinate

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

The kissing bug and Chagas disease

Article
8/1/2019
Adult kissing bugs are mostly active in the warmer months, from May to October. Kissing bugs develop into adults after a series of five life stages as nymphs, and both nymphs and adults feed on blood. Kissing bugs feed on humans as well as wild and domestic animals and pets. They can live between one to two years. (Photo by Texas.gov)

Chagas disease comes from a single-celled parasite that lives in the digestive tract of many species of kissing bugs

Recommended Content:

Bug Week: July 27 - August 2 | Preventive Health

MSMR Vol. 26 No. 8 - August 2019

Report
8/1/2019

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Modeling Lyme disease host animal habitat suitability, West Point, New York; Incidence, timing, and seasonal patterns of heat illnesses during U.S. Army basic combat training, 2014–2018; Update: Heat illness, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014–2018; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2003–2018

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Tick Facts: Dangers at the height of tick season

Article
7/31/2019
A tick like this one, seen at 10x magnification, can spread a number of dangerous pathogens during the warm-weather months. (Photo by Cornel Constantin)

Many diseases are transferred to humans by ticks — Lyme is the most common, but several others, described here, are worth knowing about

Recommended Content:

Bug-Borne Illnesses | Bug Week: July 27 - August 2 | Tick-Borne Illnesses | Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Public Health

Zapping mosquitoes from the inside out

Article
7/29/2019
While chemical mosquito population control measures have been used with some degree of success, they are toxic to other insect populations and to the health of humans. A different angle of defense has emerged, which is genetic modification of the mosquito itself, making it transgenic. Transgenic mosquitoes are unable to transmit a pathogen, such as malaria, due to their altered genetic makeup. (DoD photo)

Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying at summer barbecues. In many parts of the world, they carry pathogens for Zika, dengue, yellow fever and malaria, the most devastating of mosquito-borne diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 440,000 people died in sub-Saharan Africa in 2016 from malaria, contracted from the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Protecting U.S. military personnel who continue to serve in this part of world is critical.

Recommended Content:

Bug Week: July 27 - August 2 | Mosquito-Borne Illnesses | Zika Virus | Preventing Mosquito-Borne Illnesses | Preventive Health | Innovation | Medical Research and Development | Deployment Health

U.S., Royal Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons train together

Article
7/26/2019
Reserve Citizen Airmen from Joint Base Charleston's 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron prepare a mock patient during a drill inside a C-17 Globemaster III, July 10, 2019. Drills performed while in-flight are to mimic real-life scenarios that the 315 AES may encounter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William Brugge)

The C-17 Globemaster III serves as a common platform for medevacs in both squadrons

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability

Stop the Bleed: A battlefield innovation on civilian soil

Article
7/19/2019
USU's Dr. Craig Goolsby (center) observes as high school students at a conference in Orlando, Florida, practice using a tourniquet after watching a web-based tutorial. Goolsby is researching effective teaching methods as part of a grant to develop a trauma first-aid course for students that incorporates elements of Stop the Bleed. (USU photo by Sarah Marshall)

Program teaches public how to respond to bleeding emergencies

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Innovation | Medical Research and Development | Emergency Preparedness and Response

Mononucleosis

Infographic
7/1/2019
Mononucleosis

A specimen is tested for mononucleosis at the medical clinic on Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota (U.S. Air Force photo)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Influenza

Infographic
7/1/2019
Adminstration of a seasonal flu vaccination. (U.S. Navy photo)

Adminstration of a seasonal flu vaccination. (U.S. Navy photo)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Zika

Infographic
7/1/2019
Zika

Anopheles merus mosquito. (CDC photo by James Gathany)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Psittacosis

Infographic
7/1/2019
Psittacosis

Green-winged Macaw. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 26 No. 7 - July 2019

Report
7/1/2019

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Modeling Lyme disease host animal habitat suitability, West Point, New York; Incidence, timing, and seasonal patterns of heat illnesses during U.S. Army basic combat training, 2014–2018; Update: Heat illness, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014–2018; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2003–2018

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Men’s preventive health screenings essential for readiness and a lifetime of good health

Article
6/27/2019
Hospitalman Payton Dupuis, a native of Mill City, Oregon, checks veteran Joseph Levette’s blood pressure at Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s internal medicine clinic. “Men’s health is a vital part of the mission,” stated Dupuis. “We need a healthy workforce to succeed.” (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

An apple a day helps, too

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Men's Health

Sexually transmitted infections on the rise in military

Article
6/26/2019
Some sexually transmitted infections are on the rise in the military. To increase awareness, members of Team McConnell attend a briefing on STIs at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexi Myrick)

What you need to know to stay safe

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Men's Health | Women's Health

Mail-in colon cancer screening may end colonoscopy for most

Article
6/19/2019
Army Medicine logo

The best test is the one the patient will do

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Men's Health | Women's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 31 - 45 Page 3 of 44

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.