Epstein-Barr is a herpesvirus infection that leads to the more commonly known mono infection, although it also commonly known as herpesvirus 4. It is so common in humans that 95% of the adult population are thought to have had the virus at some point in their lives. Since it doesn’t always present with symptoms, many people with the virus have no idea that they contracted it at all.
People can become infected with EBV through bodily fluids such as saliva, semen, or blood. The symptoms that typically appear in non-asymptomatic cases can include:
- Enlarged spleen
- Swollen liver
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
Although the virus typically clears up within two to four weeks, some cases can leave people with fatigue for months after the initial onset of the infection. After that, most people with the virus are typically unaware of it, as it tends to stay dormant. In rare cases, it has been known to lead to serious complications such as a ruptured spleen, myocarditis, and meningitis.
Since many people are unaware that they have Epstein-Barr, it can be hard to diagnose unless it is tested for after careful consideration of symptoms.
How is Epstein-Barr virus diagnosed?
Getting a proper diagnosis of Epstein-Barr can be difficult because the symptoms tend to mimic a variety of other illnesses. Typically, your doctor will test for the Epstein-Barr virus when other conditions have been ruled out, or if you have been in direct contact with someone with a known case of the virus.
Your doctor will likely take note of all your symptoms, perform a physical examination, and order tests to help determine whether or not EBV is what is causing your symptoms.
Can you test for Epstein-Barr?
Getting a test for Epstein-Barr is simple because it requires only one blood test. The virus will trigger an immune response within the body that will produce certain proteins known as antibodies. These antibodies will be created in direct response to Epstein-Barr, and thus, when the test is performed, it will check to see if you have any of those particular antibodies in your system.
This test will be able to determine if you have the virus in your body during an active infection, or even if you have had it in the past. This is because antibodies stay in your system as preparation for the next time the virus tries to cause harm to the body. There are three specific antibodies that the test looks for:
If the VCA IgG antigens are found, that means that the virus occurred recently or at some point in the past. If the VCA IgM antigens are found without the presence of EBNA antibodies, it means that the infection is recent. Detection of EBNA antibodies means that the infection had to have occurred at least six to eight weeks prior to the testing. These antibodies remain in the body for the rest of one’s life.
What blood test shows Epstein-Barr virus?
The blood test used to detect Epstein-Barr antibodies is known as the EBV test and it is specially designed for this type of infection. It is done through simple blood draw where a technician collects blood from the vein.
The step-by-step process involved in an Epstein-Barr virus blood test is:
- can be confirmed
When it comes to the EBV test, there are the same typical risks associated with any blood draw. You may experience slight bleeding or bruising at the site of the puncture. Infection could also occur at the site. Some may feel faint after having their blood taken. If that is the case for you, tell your technician and they may be able to provide the test with you in a lying-down position.
What does it mean if you test positive for Epstein-Barr?
If you do test positive for the Epstein-Barr infection, this just means that at some point you contracted the virus. Since there is no cure or treatment for Epstein-Barr virus, there is no way to get rid of the infection; it stays within the body for life. The good news is that it isn’t likely to cause any serious damage and most people don’t even notice it.
The virus may lay dormant but from time to time can reactivate. If that happens, you’ll be able to spread it to others. To avoid this, refrain from mouth-to-mouth contact or drink sharing during times of reactivation. In rare cases, EBV can lead to long-lasting symptoms. There have also been links between Epstein-Barr and chronic conditions such as Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
If your test results come back negative, there are no steps that need to be taken. This does not mean that you cannot contract the virus in the future, though. To prevent this, avoid sharing things such as drinks, food, and toothbrushes, and practice good hand-washing hygiene. Prevention is the best route to take when it comes to EBV.
Featured image by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash