The Epstein-Barr virus (EPV) is a common viral infection. It is estimated that 95% of people between the ages of 35 and 40 have come in contact with the virus at least once. Childhood infections typically go unnoticed, but 35-50% of EPV infections develop into mononucleosis. After infection, the virus lays dormant where it can become active at any time. While the virus can be detected in saliva, symptoms do not usually develop during reactivation. 

Epstein-Barr virus

How can I get the Epstein-Barr virus?

The Epstein-Barr virus is transmitted through contact with the saliva of a person infected with EBV. The most common form of transmission is kissing. It takes up to six weeks for symptoms to appear after initial infection. Symptoms are not necessary to pass on the infection. In many cases, no symptoms are present though saliva tests positive for the Epstein-Barr virus. 

Symptoms and Signs

Patients who suspect they may be experiencing an active form of the virus often present with fever, swollen lymph glands and sore throat. These symptoms mirror those associated with other viral infections, but typically last longer. Epstein-Barr virus symptoms can take up to four months to resolve.

Other common symptoms of an active infection include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Anemia
  • Aches and pains

Can I test for the Epstein-Barr virus during pregnancy?

A blood test can be ordered during pregnancy if the Epstein-Barr virus is suspected. However, since the condition has no definitive cure and poses no risk during pregnancy, doctors may choose to treat the symptoms of the viral infection rather than test for a specific virus. If symptoms last more than six months, additional testing may be ordered to rule out other chronic illnesses. 

What are potential complications with the Epstein-Barr virus in pregnancy?

There are no reported complications associated with the Epstein-Barr virus during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, no reports of birth defect or miscarriage have been taken. 

Treatment for the Epstein-Barr virus during pregnancy

There is no straightforward treatment for the Epstein-Barr virus. Some doctors prescribe a five-day course of steroids to control swelling in the throat. All treatments are focused on the symptoms rather than resolution of the virus. 

Can I breastfeed with the Epstein-Barr virus?

The Epstein-Barr virus is found in human breast milk, but there does not appear to be any threat to the breastfeeding infant. Breastfeeding mothers should discuss possible risk of infection with their doctor or pediatrician.