You are here: 

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

EBV is a common type of herpes virus. It is one of the most common viruses in humans, affecting more than 90% of people in the world before the age of 20. This virus causes infectious mononucleosis (mono or the “kissing disease”).

Infection with EBV usually happens in childhood. Most people develop only mild symptoms or none at all. Symptoms of mono include fever, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.

EBV stays in the body throughout life, though most people do not have any symptoms after the first few weeks of infection.

EBV and cancer

In some cases, long-term infection with EBV increases the risk of developing some types of cancer, including:

  • some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • throat (nasopharyngeal) cancer
  • some types of stomach cancer
How is EBV spread?

EBV is in saliva, so it is mainly spread by oral contact. It can be passed from person-to-person by kissing, sharing drinks or eating utensils and by coughing or sneezing.

How to test for EBV?

A blood test can be done to find out if a person has been infected with EBV.

How to reduce your risk

Right now, there’s no vaccine that prevents EBV infection. To help reduce the risk of EBV infection, don’t share drinks, food, utensils or toothbrushes.

Explore related articles

Human herpes virus 8 (HHV8)

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus (HTLV)

Continue reading