by Kimberly Allen R.N.
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a member of the herpes virus family known as human herpes virus 4 (HHV-4). EBV is a highly contagious and a very common virus that affects most people at some time in their life. In fact most estimate that at least half of all 5 year olds have been infected with EBV and that as many as 95% of adults in the US have also been infected at some point in their life. EBV affects both males and females and can be found worldwide.
Many EBV infections are so mild they’re not even noticed because the symptoms are similar to a mild cold or flu. It takes 4-6 weeks for any symptoms to appear after being infected with EBV. Usually children have mild non specific symptoms or no symptoms at all. Occasionally some other children develop more severe respiratory infections like pneumonia ans some develop a rash. EBV is passed from person to person usually through saliva. The most common infection caused by EBV is infectious mononucleosis (IM). IM affects mostly children and young adults, and is more common in whites than in African Americans. IM is characterized by severe fatigue, inflammed, sore throat, tonsillitis with a moderate to high fever. EBV has also been linked to other childhood illnesses including multiple ear infections and some gastrointestinal infections.
EBV is similar to the “chicken pox” virus in that once you have been infected the virus remains ‘dormant’ in your body for the rest of your life. Also, like the “chicken pox” virus the EBV can reactivate leading to other illnesses later in life. EBV has been linked to the development of other more serious conditions later in life including various cancers like Hodgkins lymphoma as well as some forms of non-Hodgkins lymphomas. EBV has also been linked to the development of multiple sclerosis and certain blood disorders.
Though there are a number of potentially serious even fatal conditions that have been linked to EBV most people will remain carriers of the virus without ever experiencing any symptoms. There is no cure of EBV and with 95% of the population walking around as carriers of EBV no one knows exactly why it is that some people develop serious health conditions later except to note that in most cases the immune system was weakened which allows the opportunity for the virus to mutate.
You may not be able to prevent the initial infection with EBV, however if you do what you can to keep your immune system healthy you may be able to prevent a secondary condition from developing later. The best way to maintain a healthy immune system is to eat a nutritional diet. A diet high in antioxidants and fiber like dark green vegetable and fresh fruits and berries has been shown to help prevent many health complications. Avoiding foods high in fats and carbohydrates as well as preservatives while including more fish in your diet also helps maintain your immune system. The other major factor is ….yep you guessed exercise! No matter which way you look at it exercise plays a significant role in maintaining our health. Like it or not it is just as important to include exercise in your daily routine as it is to include food. Leading a healthy, active lifestyle doesn’t guarantee that you won’t develop some form of serious health condition eventually, but it does improve your chances and it also improves your chances of recovery should you develop a secondary health condition.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.