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Epstein-barr, Mono, and Reactivation

From my health journal to you, a non-doctor perspective of the human side of EBV.

If you are an adult living in a first-world nation, chances are you are a carrier.  You’ve been infected and might even be shedding the virus right now.  Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is using your cells and your saliva to infect even more people.  It could be happening right now in your throat and you wouldn’t even know it.  Sneaky and successful EBV lives undetected in most (lucky) humans.  I am not so lucky. 

Nine years ago during flu season I came down with a virus.  It felt different than any other virus I’ve had previously.  I felt ‘off’.  On top of flu/cold like symptoms, it felt as if it altered my depth perception.  The doctor I saw blew me off with “Its just the flu” and sent me home with a prescription for antibiotics if you can believe that!  When the initial infection subsided, I felt really run-down.  I began to experience extreme fatigue.  I went to the doctor several times, a different doctor, and tested negative for mono and thyroid issues and was sent to an endocrinologist who tested me for everything else under the sun.  Months later a blood test came back positive for EBV antibodies.  

The fatigue persisted for over 4 months.  Once the fatigue finally subsided, I experienced a host of other problems like swollen eyes and hands in the morning, and pain in random joints (different ones every day).  I still have periods of fatigue that last for months to over a year, usually brought on by stress.  The summer after the initial infection I had a horrible sore throat, viral.  I’ve read that EBV can cause infections of the throat.  My husband had the same sore throat.  The following two years I had the throat infection reoccur in the spring.  These years were stressful you could say.  

So far, even nine years later, I have not recovered fully.  I used to be really energetic and highly responsive to caffeine and slept well.  Now, even when I’m not in what I would call a period of fatigue, I still feel tired and older than I really am.  Caffeine no longer gives me a boost, and I never feel refreshed in the morning anymore.

This year I am once again suffering from an extreme sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and general run-down feeling.  I have read many articles on EBV relapse and reactivation and all state this occurs with no symptoms.  I have often wondered if there were others having the same relapse symptoms and just shrugging it off as something else.  EBV is an ubiquitous virus living in our B-cells and going undetected in most carriers and it seems to have become quite a successful parasite.  I’ve often wondered if my immune system’s strong response to EBV suggests it is more primitive, more advanced, or just bored.  In any case it doesn’t matter because even though I am aware of the virus there isn’t anything I can do about it.  So all I can say is ‘we meet again old friend’ and ‘thanks for the gifts’.

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  1. I have your exact same symptoms. I was diagnosed with Mono when I was 17 (I am 42 now), Epstein Barr at 25 and now with Mixed connective tissue disease diagnosed less then a week ago. You may want to get checked for MCTD as it is a serious diease with many of the same symptoms that you have described. I used to have the same re-activation symptoms that you describe but now they are alot worse, I am currently going through a flare that has lasted for 4 months now. Good luck to you, dont give up, find a doctor that will listen.

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