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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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April 2002

Q. I have recently been diagnosed with mononucleosis. I'm almost positive that my girlfriend will develop it, because we have been kissing intimately when I didn't know I had it. Am I able to still hang out with her and be intimate? Am I allowed to kiss her if we are both infected? If I get over the mononucleosis but she still has it, and we kiss, will I get it again? If we both have it, is it okay that we kiss intimately?

A. Mononucleosis is a viral infection that most commonly affects adolescents and young adults. It usually starts out like a bad case of "flu" with a fever and sore throat. The sore throat can be quite severe and even interfere with food and liquid intake. Diagnosis is made by physical exam and lab tests, usually a blood test for mono and a throat culture to look for Strep throat, a bacterial infection. If the diagnosis of mono is confirmed, treatment is aimed at relieving the fever and sore throat. It is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus; antibiotics are not helpful. A potential complication is an enlarged spleen which can rupture with trauma, so activity is often restricted until this resolves.

The virus is passed by intimate contact, rarely by casual contact, so partners can certainly catch it a few weeks after exposure. Most patients with active mononucleosis will feel pretty debilitated and not be inclined to kissing; caution is advised in this regard. The fatigue can take several weeks to clear up.



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