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Epstein-Barr

General Instructions

An Epstein-Barr blood test, also known as an EBV blood test, does not have a fasting requirement.  The individual taking the test may eat and drink as well as take medication, vitamins, and supplements.  The individual may give blood for the test at any time of the day.

Why It Is Used

The EBV blood test is used to detect antibodies that form in response to the Epstein-Barr virus.  The test is most commonly ordered when an individual presents with symptoms of infectious mononucleosis, also known as mono, but has had a negative test result for mono.  The test is also often ordered for women who are pregnant and are experiencing flu-like symptoms.  The test will determine if the Epstein-Barr virus is causing the symptoms or if there is another cause for her symptoms.  The last, and somewhat less common use for this blood test is to test an individual who is not symptomatic to determine if they are vulnerable to the disease or if they have been previously exposed to the disease.  This might be done for an individual who has had close contact with another individual who is infected. 

How It Works

The Epstein-Barr virus is quite common, with as many as 95 percent of the United States population being infected at some point by the age of 40.  One of the reasons that the virus has affected so many individuals is because it is very contagious.  The virus that causes the infection is spread from one individual to another through saliva, which is often transferred by kissing or by sharing cups or eating utensils.  To make the likelihood of spreading the virus even more likely, most individuals do not know that that are infected and do not start to experience symptoms until about two weeks after they are infected.  The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms for those who are infected.  Some of the symptoms of the virus include intense fatigue, sore throat, swollen lymph glands, fever, and sometime an enlargement of the liver and spleen.  These symptoms normally resolve themselves in approximately two months. 

Results

Results for the Epstein-Barr blood test can indicate a number of things, including if an individual currently has the infection, if one has ever had the infection, and if one is susceptible to the infection.  If an individual does not have the infection and has never had it, results would suggest that the individual’s symptoms are due to some other cause and that the person is still vulnerable to catching the infection.  If the individual does not have the infection but has had it in the past, they are likely immune to the infection.  Sometimes results will show that an individual currently has the infection and has been exposed to it in the past as well.  These are known as flare-ups, and the condition is thought to have never been fully eliminated.  A positive test result will help individuals and doctors to understand the source of the patient’s symptoms, but there is no cure for the virus – those who are infected must focus on managing symptoms as the infection runs its course. 

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