Epstein-Barr Virus

What is the Epstein-Barr Virus?

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is also known as herpesvirus 4 and is a member of the herpes virus family. It is contagious and easily spreads through saliva, as well as other bodily fluids. While most people get infected with EBV (about 95%) at some point of their lives, some have no symptoms while others will go on to develop other illnesses (such as infections mononucleosis).

In a EBV infection, the virus attaches to white blood cells (lymphocyte B cells). When this happens, the cells become unable to fight infection properly, triggering symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of an Epstein-Barr Infection?

Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sore and inflamed throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Swollen liver
  • Enlarged spleen

While in most adults symptoms get better in two to four weeks, some may feel fatigued for many weeks or even months. In addition, once infected, the EBV will stay latent in the body and in some cases the virus may re-activate. Those with weakened immune systems, are more likely to develop symptoms if EBV re-activates. Stress and menopause and/or hormone changes can also cause the virus to re-activate.

How is Epstein-Barr Diagnosed?

Because EBV infections have symptoms that are similar to other illnesses, it can be challenging to diagnosis, but it can be confirmed with a blood test that detects antibodies.

What is the Treatment for Epstein-Barr Virus?

While there is no specific treatment for EBV there are ways to relieve symptoms, including:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting rest
  • Taking medications (OTC) for pain and fever

What are Complications of Epstein-Barr Virus?

While the Epstein-Barr virus is most commonly associated with mononucleosis, there are other conditions that may be triggered by the Epstein-Barr virus, including:

  • Viral meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Optic neuritis
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Facial nerve palsies
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Acute cerebellar ataxia
  • Hemiplegia
  • Burkitt lymphoma (white blood cell cancer)
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer (cancer of the nose and throat)

A recent study out of Stanford also EBV is also a trigger for multiple sclerosis.

EBV and any associated illnesses can interfere with an individual’s ability to work or carry out daily tasks. If you have been diagnosed with EBV or a related condition, and are worried that it may be impeding your ability to continue to safely practice on patients, you should speak with an experienced disability insurance attorney.

These posts are for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with and diagnosis by a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and have yet to consult with a doctor, do not use this resource to self-diagnose. Please contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to be evaluated for your symptoms.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Cleveland Clinic
Banner Health

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