Glandular fever. Katrina Creer reports on this condition
Meg Syme, 16, is still recovering from glandular fever, which she contracted in October 2010. She became jaundiced and was confined to her bed. She missed the last term of school and is now trying alternative therapies to boost her energy.
“Mum took me to the hospital with a fever and vomiting, but they
Nick Tellam, 22, is studying medicine at University. He contracted glandular fever in November 2010.
“I thought it was just really bad tonsillitis – so bad that I went to hospital, but they sent me home. But my throat swelled up and I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t even drink with a straw. I was
It takes about four to six weeks from infection for the symptoms to appear. While it is more common in high school and university-aged students, glandular fever can occur later in life. Like other illnesses, it tends to be more severe in older people. Once infected, the EBV stays in the body for life. An estimated 80 per cent of the Australian population carry EBV, but not everyone will develop symptoms.
Studies have shown when EBV infection occurs during the teenage or young adult years, in 35 to 50 per cent of cases it causes glandular fever.
The reason some people develop the illness and others don’t is complex, Dr Khanna says. Research carried out in the QIMR laboratory suggests the immune system reacts differently for everyone, particularly in the way in which the killer T cells react to the virus.
It is possible to pass EBV on to another person even if you don’t have the symptoms. This is evident when the virus is transmitted through kissing.
“It is difficult to say how long a person who is carrying a virus silently can be infectious,” Dr Khanna says. “There is literature which suggests stress can lead to increased viral load in the saliva and thus can be transferred to another person.’’
A vaccine may be a possibility, but the problem for researchers is that EBV can sit undetected inside cells in a “sleep mode”.
While relapses are common within the first year after infection, it is unlikely years after the original infection. The only exception is when the immune system is suppressed following an organ transplant.
It is also unlikely that a person could be infected by a different strain of the disease. A vaccine will not prevent infection, but it will lessen the symptoms of glandular fever.
No quick fix
Normally the only treatment for glandular fever is to take time to let the body fully recover. Symptoms can reappear if the immune system has not returned to normal after the “cytokine storm”. The illness has also been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome.
There is some research that shows those infected by EBV also have a higher chance of contracting certain types of cancers.
Naturopath Deborah Draffin, from Sydney Wholistic, says she uses a combination of herbs to treat glandular fever, including immune boosters such as andrographis and echinacea. She also recommends a B-complex vitamin or multi-mineral supplement, as well as vitamin C and magnesium.
She says eating colourful vegetables, fruits and goodquality proteins will boost the body’s immune system. Drink at least eight large glasses of water a day and avoid alcohol, sugar, dairy and fatty foods.