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The Virus that Nobody Talks About

College students are more likely to contract this virus… and it is not COVID-19.

As the novel coronavirus continues to prove itself to be a highly contagious virus claiming the immunity and lives of thousands every day, there are many other diseases that are equally as contagious lurking within our immune systems that are causes for concern. Medical professionals have long known of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and its affiliation with infectious mononucleosis in 95% of adults ages 30 and older and 35-50% of adults in their 20’s. Epstein- Barr Virus is a fifty-year-old disease and is one of the nine total viruses in the herpes family that is primarily transmitted through salivary trajectories. This can mean anything from kissing to sharing food and beverages to sneezing. Formerly referred to as Human gammaherpersvirus 4, EBV is one of the stealthiest viruses in that most people will contract Epstein-Bar Virus in their lifetime without ever knowing it because they do not display any symptoms. In fact, Epstein-Barr Virus symptoms are only experienced if the virus is mononucleosis-induced. Symptoms of Epstein-Barr Virus have an incubation period of four to six weeks and can encompass enlarged spleen, swollen liver, inflamed lymph nodes, fever and excessive fatigue. You may be familiar with or perhaps have even had mono (short for mononucleosis) before. One of the most popular nicknames of infectious mononucleosis is “the kissing disease” because of the salivary germs being exchanged. The duration of contagiousness of mono still remains a medical mystery to this day. This is because the heterophile antibodies located in the blood can still be fighting off Epstein-Barr heteroantigens for up to six months. Moreover, the CDC confidently states that “About nine out of ten adults have antibodies that show that they have a current or past EBV infection.” Furthermore, it is not uncommon for the Epstein-Barr virus to be latent throughout childhood and become worse around late adolescence or early adulthood as this is usually when mononucleosis is introduced to the immune system. As if those statistics did not raise cortisol levels enough, the CDC estimates that at least one out of four teenagers and young adults who are infected with Epstein Barr will either develop or spread infectious mononucleosis to another usually through salivary means. Additionally, a 2016 Depaul University study reported that glandular fever and EBV were the second-most common cause of college student’s admission into infirmaries. Epstein-Barr Virus and infectious mononucleosis may not have claimed as many lives as Coronavirus, but it sure has done its damage over the past five decades. What does one do with these alarming numbers and is there any “cure” to Epstein-Barr Virus? The bad news is that there is no vaccine to prevent infectious mononucleosis or Epstein-Barr Virus. However, the good news is that infectious diseases and viruses like these are great reminders to practice health precautions such as keeping your bodily fluid to yourself and refraining from sharing saliva with someone as much as possible. Whether it is EBV or COVID-19 remember that the human body has a built-in defense system with lots of friends called antibodies to help. Stay healthy. 

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