For this reason, teens diagnosed with mono must avoid contact sports -- or other activities that carry a risk of trauma -- for about six weeks. A ruptured spleen is a life-threatening emergency that usually requires surgery to remove the spleen and stop the bleeding.
Mono can also cause swelling of the tonsils. This is usually not a problem, but if the swelling is severe, it can obstruct airways to the extent that a person cannot breathe. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Sufferers should call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.
People with immune systems weakened by HIV infection or certain medications must also be aware that they have an increased risk for long-term complications from Epstein-Barr infection. In these people, Epstein-Barr can take advantage of the weak immune system to start growing out of control in white blood cells.
Rarely, Epstein-Barr can also cause lymphoma -- a cancer of white blood cells -- in people who have weakened immune systems.
Many studies have sought a link between chronic fatigue syndrome and Epstein-Barr, but no link has yet been established. Chronic fatigue syndrome may be caused by another, potentially unidentified infection.
Dr. Todd Wills is an assistant professor of infectious diseases and international medicine at the University of South Florida, and is the assistant clinical director of the university's signature interdisciplinary program in allergy, immunology and infectious disease.