Are you concerned about catching the “kissing disease”? This condition isn’t just for teenagers. Epstein-Barr, the virus that leads to mononucleosis (also known as mono) can affect you at any stage of life- and you can just as easily spread it to someone else.
Here’s the good news; you’ve likely already experienced the condition, even if you weren’t aware of it. The Epstein-Barr virus rarely causes chronic problems; but when it does, it’s important to take the necessary steps to tend to your health.
This article will help you learn more about living with the Epstein-Barr virus and the ways that you can keep it under control.
What is Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus?
The Epstein-Barr virus (EPV) is a herpes-type virus that infects approximately 95 percent of the world’s population, making it one of the most common human infections. Within the United States, almost half of all five-year-olds show evidence of an EPV infection. By adulthood, that percentage jumps to 90 percent.
EPV is one of eight known human herpesvirus types, and it is the cause of mononucleosis (mono) in young adults. In most instances, an Epstein-Barr viral infection will clear up within a few weeks. However, the condition becomes chronic if your system struggles to fight it off.
How Do You Contract the Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus?
The Epstein-Barr virus is primarily spread through the oral transfer of saliva and genital secretions. However, any body fluid can spread the virus, including blood transfusions and organ transplants. As the virus can remain alive outside the body for as long as it’s in a moist environment, it’s also possible to spread EBV from sharing personal items like a toothbrush or drinking glass with someone who is contagious.
After you become infected, the Epstein-Barr virus stays dormant in the DNA of cell tissues indefinitely. This means that you will always carry the virus in your cells, though it is unlikely to be reactivated unless your immune system functioning is compromised. This provides you with adaptive immunity to the virus and significantly reduces your chances of developing symptoms again.
Who is Most at Risk for Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus?
While the majority of people are exposed to EBV at some point in their lives, most show no outward evidence of this exposure. Children often contract mild cases of the virus, but their symptoms are similar enough to other childhood illnesses that many parents don’t seek treatment.
EBV is often spread to young children by their parents, babysitters, kissy grandmothers, and daycare workers. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, undergoing the infection as an infant reduces the intensity of symptoms you might experience from the virus later in life.
Life Cycle of the Epstein-Barr Virus
You aren’t likely to notice when you first contract an EBV infection, as it takes between four and seven weeks for the virus to spread through your body to the point that you develop symptoms. Even so, the EBV virus is contagious both during this incubation phase and when the symptoms start manifesting themselves. Some individuals are infectious for as long as 18 months after they contract the condition.
While the virus can spread from any body fluid, most cases are transmitted through saliva. If EBV enters the mouth, the virus will infect the mucous membranes that line the throat and stomach. From there, it affects the white blood cells responsible for producing antibodies. These compromised cells then transport the virus throughout your system, infecting the entire body within a matter of weeks. This active phase is considered the “lytic phase,” and it’s the time when people are most likely to express symptoms and be contagious.
When the virus is active, your body will contain elevated levels of both IgM and IgG antibodies. These levels stay high for several weeks after the acute phase of the infection has passed, but the IgM levels will eventually subside, leaving only IgG. In this way, high levels of IgG antibodies can be a sign that someone was exposed to EBV at some point in their lives, regardless of whether they ever developed symptoms.
Generally, once the acute (IgM) phase of the virus has passed, you won’t experience further symptoms. However, in cases of a chronic Epstein-Barr infection, the virus can cause ongoing fatigue and other general health problems that are difficult to diagnose.
EBV and Mono
Not all forms of EBV lead to mono. In fact, only adults who weren’t exposed to the virus are at risk of developing acute forms of the condition. This is because their immune systems haven’t developed the necessary antibodies to fight it off. Even so, you’re only likely to contract mono if you become exposed to EBV when your immune system is already suppressed. Otherwise, your body can fight it off.
When adolescents contract EBV, it has a 50 percent chance of becoming mononucleosis. Developing mono as an adult is significantly more severe than a general EBV infection. The condition often causes sore throats, fevers, swollen lymph nodes, and severe fatigue that often drags on for months and can be debilitating.
Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus
The symptoms of the Epstein-Barr virus vary considerably depending on the type of the condition you contract and your age at onset. Young children rarely experience more than the equivalent of a mild case of the flu, while teens and young adults are far more likely to develop the symptoms of mono.
General symptoms for the EBV include:
- Lack of appetite
- Sore, inflamed throat
- Enlarged spleen
- Swollen lymph nodes (especially in the neck)
- Liver swelling
- Weak, sore muscles
While most symptoms tend to disappear within a month, fatigue from chronic Epstein-Barr virus can last far longer. It’s not uncommon to still feel exhausted several months later.
Health Effects of Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus
What are the consequences of having the Epstein-Barr virus in your body? In most cases, the adverse effects are minimal and the antibodies you develop from it prevent you from contracting a stronger bout of the condition. Some possible complications include an enlarged or ruptured spleen, jaundice, anemia, swollen tonsils, irregular heartbeat, and breathing problems.
In some instances, the virus has been linked to potentially dangerous diseases, including forms of cancer like gastric cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Burkitt’s lymphoma, and conditions correlated with HIV. There is also evidence that the infection can raise your risk of autoimmune diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In some instances, hypersensitivity to mosquito bites has also been observed.
The evidence seems to show that EBV isn’t likely to raise your chance for these conditions unless other factors already compromise your immune system.
Is There a Vaccine for EBV?
At this time, there is no available vaccine for EBV infections. The best prevention against the worst forms of the virus tends to be to contract it at a young age so that you develop antibodies.
You can also avoid potential opportunities for contamination. This includes staying away from other people’s body fluids, refusing to share personal items like drinking glasses, toothbrushes, and silverware, avoiding contact with infected people and practicing proper hygiene and handwashing strategies. Likewise, you should refrain from kissing or having sexual relations with anyone you suspect is contagious.
Full prevention, unfortunately, is difficult to achieve because a high proportion of the population already have the virus, and contagious people often don’t show any symptoms.
When to See Your Doctor for Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus
In many instances, the symptoms of EBV will disappear in a matter of weeks without any medical attention. However, some symptoms are a sign that you should see a doctor, including any sudden, sharp pain on the left side of your belly (the spleen), minimal urine production, or any difficulty breathing or swallowing.
Likewise, seek medical attention if your symptoms last longer than six weeks. They might be a sign of a different problem.
Diagnosing Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus
The Epstein-Barr virus is notoriously difficult to diagnose. This is because the symptoms are similar to many other illnesses.
While a blood test can detect the virus, it won’t necessarily tell you if your symptoms are caused by it, as everyone who has contracted the condition at one time will have the antibodies in their system. Likewise, these tests aren’t always conclusive about the type of virus that is causing your symptoms.
For these reasons, preliminary diagnosis for the condition typically relies more on a physical exam of symptoms and an analysis of the patient’s history. Signs your doctor might look for include an enlarged spleen, swollen liver, and white patches on your tonsils.
Standard Treatment Options for Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus
At this time, there is no specific treatment for chronic EBV. Antivirals are ineffective because they work by blocking DNA polymerase, an enzyme that viruses use to replicate themselves within cells. Chronic EBV, however, doesn’t require this enzyme, so eliminating it won’t make much difference for replication rates.
Most conventional approaches instead focus on alleviating symptoms by drinking plenty of fluids, increasing rest, and taking over-the-counter medications to combat fevers and inflammation. Because the virus can sap your energy, it’s important to give your body the recovery time it needs by avoiding vigorous activities and easing back into your normal routine over time.
If you experience swelling in the throat, your doctor might prescribe a corticosteroid and recommend that you gargle with salt water.
The Best Way To Treat Chronic Epstein-Barr Infection Naturally
Sometimes, Epstein-Barr infection becomes chronic. Yes, it sometimes reactivates or never goes away! This is most often due to a weakened immune system. Here’s the program I have used with my patients suffering from chronic Epstein-Barr infection. This program has been very successful since it was introduced almost 10 years ago. This plan is designed to boost your immune system to overcome the Epstein-Barr virus and put it back into remission.
One of the best ways to help your body fight off chronic EBV is by enabling your immune system to fight it off. These supplements are a smart choice to strengthen your natural defenses against the virus, and they are useful for mononucleosis as well. Here are the three supplements I recommend to boost your immune system to put Epstein-Barr virus into remission:
Vira-Calm (Immune Booster, Natural Killer (NK) Cell Activator)
Vira-Calm is a potent blend of vitamins and minerals that help your body maintain its immunity defenses to support white blood cell function and natural killer cell (NK cell) activity. These capsules are perfect for taking before cold and flu season, or when you believe you been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus to give your system the defenses it needs to protect you.
Directions: Take two to three times a day with food for twelve weeks.
Foundation Vitamins (Immune Booster, Body Balancer)
Designed for daily use, Foundation Vitamins will provide your digestive system with a full spectrum of vitamins, including a 2:1 balance of magnesium and calcium for optimal functioning. It also contains the full spectrum B vitamins to reduce stress, boost your energy levels, and enhance your immune system. Vitamin E is also included to protect you from free radical damage, ensuring that this complete multivitamin will help your system defend itself from the Epstein-Barr virus naturally.
Directions: Take three once a day with food for twelve weeks.
Vitamin D3 5,000 (Immune Booster, Detoxifier)
Your immune system requires vitamin D to work as it should, but few people get the amounts that they need. The Vitamin-D 5,000 supplement is specially formulated to help the liver produce glutathione. This powerful antioxidant acts as a detoxifying agent for your body. This boosts the functioning of your immune system in the process. Keeping your levels high will also support cardiovascular health and promote stronger bone development.
Directions: Take one daily with food for twelve weeks.
All three supplements may be taken together. I recommend continuing with Foundation Vitamins and Vitamin D3 5,000 after the initial twelve-week program to keep the immune system optimized.
Long-Term Prognosis for Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus
For most people, EBV causes nothing more than a temporary inconvenience. With time, your system will overcome the virus and keep it suppressed for long into the future. If you feel symptoms developing, treat your immune system with what it needs to continue functioning at full strength, and you’ll rarely experience the complications of chronic Epstein-Barr virus.