By Michael Kaplan
After suffering from a searing throat, a pounding headache and constant fatigue for over a week, Katie Cook â08 decided it was time to see a doctor.
Realizing Cookâs symptoms were considerably more serious than those of the common cold, Dr. Alisa Bromberg decided to give Cook a blood test and see what was going on.
Cook had been infected with mononucleosis (colloquially referred to as mono), a viral infection particularly volatile in adolescents.
âNinety-five percent of all adults have had mononucleosis to some degree at some point in their life,â Dr. David Geller MD of Pacific Palisades Pediatrics said.
Although there are only a few absences due to mononucleosis reported to Attendance Coordinator Gabriel Preciado, the actual number of those infected with mono is much higher, he said.
Knowing little about her disease, Cook searched mononucleosis in Wikipediaâs search query.
What resonated most deeply with Cook was monoâs longevity, as symptoms usually last for about a month. Most infected with mono will also experience sore throat, fever, enlarged and tender lymph nodes and extreme lethargy.
âThe hardest part about finding out that I had mono was that I knew I was going to have to miss school for a while,â Cook said. âItâs a virus, so all you can do is sleep it off. They canât give me antibiotics for it.â
Like most infectious diseases, mono has different effects on different people. Brian Pingree â07 had the virus for six weeks this past winter, but only missed one day of school.
âEven though I had a light version of mono, I couldnât do any physical activity and I would often fall asleep by the end of the day,â said Pingree, a captain of the water polo team, who swims on a daily basis. âI had to sleep and stay home a lot. I became really bored.â
Besides a sore throat and constant fatigue, Pingree also suffered from an enlarged spleen, another common symptom of mono.
Alex Valner â07 has a slightly more severe case. For the past two weeks, Valner has had a stuffy nose, head congestion, ear pressure, sore throat, sore tonsils and headaches.
âMy spleen and my liver are both sensitive,â Valner said. âI was angry especially because it is second semester of my senior year.â
Valnerâs doctor ordered him to stay home for two weeks and not to do any physical activity for a month.
The disease is spread most frequently through an exchanging of saliva and is called the âkissing disease.â
âAlthough the virus can be transmitted through an exchange of saliva, it is known as the kissing disease because the glands in a patient will swell up so much that they will touch and kiss,â Geller said.
Mononucleosis is caused by Epstein-Barr virus, which attacks the B cells that play a large role in the human immune response system.
âThe first thing my dad said to me was âWho have you been kissing?ââ Cook said. âI was worried because I knew a lot of people that had a lot drinks and food with me. I was afraid that they would get sick too.â
For students at Harvard-Westlake who have been diagnosed with mono, the biggest fear is the damage the virus will do on academic and social life.
âI could never go out on the weekends and it was really discouraging,â Pingree said. âI had to come home every day directly after school.â
Cook was absent from school for a week and fell behind even though she met with tutors and tried to do as much work as she could.
âI e-mailed my teachers and they were really understanding,â Cook said. âWhen I was at home Iâm fine, but at school it is a lot more demanding and definitely harder to stay awake. It really depends on how much sleep I get. Some days are better than othyers.â