Epstein-Barr Virus – Infection, Transmission & Diseases


The Epstein-Barr virus , EBV for short , is also known in medicine as human herpes virus 4 . It belongs to the herpesvirus group and was first described by Michael Epstein and Yvonne Barr in 1964.

What is the Epstein-Barr virus?

The Epstein-Barr virus is a pathogen that triggers glandular fever , i.e. a feverish illness with headaches and body aches . The virus is transmitted by droplet infection , which has given the disease the popular name “kissing disease”.

An acute infection with the Epstein-Barr virus can be clearly determined by appropriate blood tests (either direct detection of the virus or serological antibody determinations).

Meaning & Function

Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus can occur via the blood , mucous membrane contacts or saliva. For this reason, infection is not only possible through kissing, but also through normal skin and hand contact. The viruses can also survive outside the human body for up to three days, depending on the environmental environment. The main entry points for the pathogen are the mucous membranes of the nose and eyes as well as the mouth. They usually get to these places via the hands of the person concerned.

Basically, the disease with the Epstein-Barr virus can be divided into an acute and a chronic condition. Compared to the acute disease, the serological antibody findings in the chronic form are often less clear. In the chronic form, there are often only small amounts of individual long-term antibodies in the blood serum, which are also permanently present in the blood after an acute infection. Much more meaningful than the usual antibody test is the direct detection of the virus in the blood of the person concerned. This allows a reliable diagnosis of a chronic infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.

The current immune status of the body is decisive for whether and how severely the person affected shows symptoms of the disease after infection with the Epstein-Barr virus. Thus, with an intact and strong immune system , an infection does not necessarily have to lead to a disease. However, if the affected person’s immune system is already weakened, the Epstein-Barr virus can infect individual parts of the body or even the entire body of the person affected without much resistance, which can explain various symptoms.


The brain , liver , muscles and joints as well as certain nerves and organs are particularly frequently affected by the Epstein-Barr virus , but also the blood and the red and white blood cells. The intensity of the respective symptoms is strongly dependent on the psyche and overall condition of the body of the person concerned. For this reason, either the same symptoms can be observed permanently in those affected or certain phases in which the patient feels significantly better.

The following symptoms are particularly common after infection with the Epstein-Barr virus:

  • Headache (infection of different parts of the brain)
  • Dizziness (infection of the auditory and vestibular nerves or vestibular system)
  • epileptic seizures (infection of different parts of the brain)
  • mental impairments (infection of different brain areas)
  • a slightly elevated body temperature , which can sometimes rise to 38 degrees (especially in children due to an infection of the temperature center in the brain)
  • more or less pronounced deficits in concentration and attention
  • problems falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Chronic fatigue and permanent exhaustion
  • Nerve pain (infection of various highly sensitive nerves)
  • Functional disorders of the liver with elimination disorders for environmental toxins and metabolic end products (either with or without elevated liver values)
  • enlargement of the spleen
  • rheumatism-like pain in the joints
  • Changes in the blood count (destruction of various blood cells; in extreme cases, there may also be a reduction in all blood cells)
  • pain in the ovaries

Of course, all the symptoms listed above can also be associated with other diseases. For this reason, a clear diagnosis of the Epstein-Barr virus is of great importance in order to be able to initiate suitable therapeutic measures. In many cases, affected people have already had to go through a veritable medical odyssey before the correct diagnosis could be made.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.