Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a human herpes virus found all over the world. Most people will become infected with EBV at some stage in their life. The virus is spread from person to person through body fluids such as saliva.
Most people become infected with EBV as children and don’t have any symptoms from infection. However, some people, usually teenagers or young adults, can develop infectious mononucleosis, or glandular fever, and have swollen glands and fatigue for several weeks or months. After becoming infected with EBV, the virus becomes inactive (latent) and stays with the infected person for life.
EBV is associated with particular forms of cancer, particularly Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and central nervous system lymphomas associated with HIV. There is also evidence that infection with EBV is associated with a higher risk of certain autoimmune diseases.¹