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Infectious Diseases

Ebstein-Barr virus

05/23/2006

Question:

Is EBV contagious? My boyfriend has been diagnosed with this virus many, many years ago and I just got Mono. So I am just wandering if I caught mono from him. If you have the Ebstein-Barr Virus but not sick, can it be contagious? Or do you have to be sick to give it to someone else? Can it be transmitted by oral sex?

Answer:

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.

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Response by:

Pamposh   Kaul, MD Pamposh Kaul, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati