What are the mortality and morbidity rates of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infectious mononucleosis (mono), and which characteristics or complications of the virus are associated with severe illness or death?

Updated: Sep 20, 2018
  • Author: Burke A Cunha, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Mortality and morbidity rates due to uncomplicated primary EBV infectious mononucleosis are low. The rare cases of attributed mortality are usually related to spontaneous splenic rupture. Splenic rupture may be the initial presentation of EBV mononucleosis.

Most cases of EBV infectious mononucleosis are subclinical, and the only manifestation of EBV infection is a serological response to EBV surface proteins discovered with EBV serological tests. Airway obstruction and central nervous system (CNS) mononucleosis are also responsible for increased morbidity in infectious mononucleosis. Selective immunodeficiency to EBV, which occurs in persons with X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome, may result in severe, prolonged, or even fatal infectious mononucleosis.

Hepatic necrosis caused by extensive EBV proliferation in the RES of the liver is the usual cause of death in affected males. EBV is the main cause of malignant B-cell lymphomas in patients receiving organ transplants.

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