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What Is It?

Infectious mononucleosis is an illness caused by a viral infection. It is commonly called mononucleosis, or "mono." Mononucleosis is most often caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. In some cases, it is caused by other viruses.

Mononucleosis has been nicknamed the "kissing disease." This is because Epstein-Barr virus commonly is transmitted during kissing. However, sneezes and coughs also can transmit the virus.

Mononucleosis typically occurs the first time a person is infected with Epstein-Barr virus. But infection with Epstein-Barr virus does not always cause mononucleosis. It often causes only a mild illness or no illness at all.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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