Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Mononucleosis: Can it recur?

Can mononucleosis recur? I thought that once you got mono you couldn't get it again.

Updated: 01-15-2013

Answer

Most people who have infectious mononucleosis, or mono, get it only once. Rarely, however, mononucleosis symptoms may recur months or even years later.

Most cases of mononucleosis are caused by infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Once you're infected with EBV, you carry the virus — usually in a dormant state — for the rest of your life. Periodically, however, the virus may reactivate. When this happens, the virus can be detected in your saliva — but you're not likely to become ill. Rarely, reactivated EBV may cause illness in people who have weak immune systems, such as those who have AIDS.

Mononucleosis rarely leads to a serious condition called chronic active EBV infection, which is characterized by persistent illness more than six months after the initial mononucleosis diagnosis.

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of mononucleosis — such as fatigue, weakness, fever, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes — and you've had mono before, consult your doctor to determine the cause of your current symptoms. Keep in mind that many other conditions, such as hepatitis and toxoplasmosis, can mimic the symptoms of mononucleosis.