The Epstein-Barr virus can leave patients feeling tired and vulnerable to other conditions.
What is the Epstein-Barr Virus?
The human herpesvirus 4 (HHV-4) has a more common name: the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It is known to cause glandular fever or infectious mononucleosis (“mono”). EBV is also associated with certain cancers, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) conditions, lymphomas, and some autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. Oral and genital secretions transmit EBV. In most cases, Epstein-Barr virus infections leave the patient with “adaptive immunity”. For children, EBV infection may present as any other typical childhood illness. In teens, EBV generally causes “mono”. EBV will stay in the patient’s B cells of their immune system “for the rest of the individual’s life”. The Epstein-Barr virus is complex and not completely understood.1 Despite that, “up to 95% of all adults have antibodies” for this virus. Most infections go undetected. The virus, however, targets lymphocytes, which are involved in immune response, so any infection can affect almost all of the organ systems. In infectious mononucleosis, patients could have fatigue, tonsillitis, tender lymph nodes, and high fever. After the acute phase of “mono”, patients may have persistent fatigue for months. EBV has links to diarrhea, ear infections, and cold symptoms in children. Rarely, EBV is associated with “neurologic disturbances”, such as meningoencephalitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome, as well as blood abnormalities, such as anemia. One major complication from EBV can be a spleen rupture. Another potentially fatal concern is the airways being blocked by enlarged tissues and lymph nodes.2 The presence of the Epstein-Barr virus is detected though antibodies produced by the immune system. EBV may be responsible for fatigue that persists for more than a few months.3 Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is thought to be partially associated with Epstein-Barr virus.4
Preventing the transmission of EBV is important. Infected individuals should not kiss, share drinks or food, share utensils or toothbrushes, or have contact with saliva-contaminated toys, for example. EBV can also spread through semen and blood, sexual contact, transfusions, and organ transplantation. The virus can be spread for weeks after infection. There is no vaccine, but symptoms of EBV can be alleviated with pain and fever medications, rest, and fluids.5 If EBV results in chronic fatigue syndrome, there are homeopathic medicines that can be added to rest and a healthy diet.6 Aside from antiviral prescriptions, such as Zovirax and Valtrex, patients can use natural alternatives to suppress viruses and boost the immune system. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and simple sugars, while increasing fresh vegetables and fruits in the diet can support immune system health.7 Decreasing stress and getting enough sleep are also important. Regular massage and chiropractic care can also reduce stress and help the body perform optimally.
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