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Miss the kiss

Glandular fever is very easily spread, so make sure you steer clear of pupils' mouths, writes Jill Wyatt

Infectious mononucleosis - also known as glandular fever or, more romantically, the kissing disease - is one illness that most new teachers have no real reason to fear, although most will encounter it in the classroom.

The infection, caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), most commonly affects young people between 10 and 25, most notably at the time of critical exams. Those afflicted find it difficult to revise or to perform as expected.

Can I catch it?

Many adults will have caught the virus in their younger days without experiencing any symptoms and will be safe from suffering its unpleasant effects later in life.

The Health Protection Agency gives the risk of transmission within schools as "low". Infected saliva is the villain to be dodged at all costs. Don't kiss a child with the virus and avoid inhaling droplets of infected mucus or saliva that may have been left suspended in the air from their coughing andor sneezing. In fact, trying not to inhale mucus or saliva, infected or not, is probably a sound, general strategy for good health. Sharing food or drink from the same container as someone who has glandular fever is another means of catching the illness.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms appear some four to seven weeks after infection and classically include fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes (glands in the neck), aching muscles and fatigue, which may be severe.

How is it diagnosed?

If you suspect you have glandular fever, a blood test will usually confirm or rule out the virus. A throat swab may also be taken to exclude throat infections caused by bacteria.

What treatment is available?

Not a lot. Since it is caused by a virus rather than bacteria, antibiotics will have no effect. The best course of action is to rest, drink plenty of fluids, take painkillers such as paracetamol or aspirin and avoid vigorous exercise (which sufferers won't be capable of anyway) and stress (which they probably have limited control over).

any lasting effects?

Usually young people recover completely in less than a month and can return to school or work as soon as they feel able. However, the general feeling of fatigue can last for several weeks or months and may be accompanied by depression.

fever pitch

* Glandular fever can usually be diagnosed with a blood test.

* Complications are rare, but they can include a ruptured spleen, mild hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), inflammation of the lungs (pneumonitis), inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or meningitis.

* Once you've had it, you are unlikely to get it again as you develop an immunity.

* Most adults carry antibodies to EBV in their blood, showing that they have been infected at some time.

* For a few children, the infection leads to chronic fatigue syndrome.

* There is no vaccine to prevent glandular fever.

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