What is it?

Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is found all over the world and is so common that at some point in their lives most people get infected with EBV. It is also known as herpesvirus 4 and is a member of the herpes virus family.

Due to the way it spreads, most commonly through saliva, it is also colloquially known as the ‘kissing disease’. You might have also heard it referred to as ‘Mono’ because it can cause infectious mononucleosis, among other illnesses.

How can I get it?

Epstein-Barr virus is found in saliva, so the most common way of catching it is from kissing someone who is infected, sharing a toothbrush or drinking from the same glass. It is also found in blood and semen, so it is possible to become infected after sexual contact, blood transfusions or organ transplants.

You can still pass the virus onto somebody else even after you are no longer sick because the virus remains dormant in your body long after you have recovered from any symptoms, sometimes becoming active again several months or years after, making you contagious again.

How do I know if I have it?

Many people become infected with EBV and never know about it because it does not always come with symptoms. For those who display symptoms, it can often take up to 6 weeks for these to develop.

Diagnosis of EBV can be difficult because the symptoms are very similar to other illnesses, such as a cold or flu, so the only way to be sure is by taking a test that detects antibodies in the blood or a PCR test to detect the virus itself.

Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Inflamed throat
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Swollen liver

Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) Testing

Better2Know can provide a quantitative antibody test that measures for both IgG and IgM antibodies, which are produced in response to natural infections and can tell if the virus is currently active or if you have had an infection in the past. Better2Know can also provide PCR testing which will identify a current active Epstein-Barr infection.


There is currently no treatment available for Epstein-Barr virus, however there are some things you can do to help relieve symptoms, such as plenty of rest, drinking fluids to stay hydrated and over the counter medication for pain and fever.

Adverse consequences

EBV is best known for causing mononucleosis but can also lead to other infections and diseases such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a problem with your nervous system that can cause muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in parts of your body. In some extreme cases it can also lead to certain cancers of the nose and throat and Sporadic Burkitt’s lymphoma.