Please tell my girlfriend I didn’t cheat on her!

I was just diagnosed with Mononucleosis and my girlfriend INSISTS that I can ONLY have gotten it from kissing someone. I have never cheated on my girlfriend and never will.  How can I prove her wrong so she calms down?  PLEASE HELP!

Infectious mononucleosis (“mono”) became known as “the kissing disease” in the 1950’s when Dr. Robert J. Hoagland, the chief medical officer at West Point, found that out of 73 cadets who had it, 71 had been involved in “deep kissing” within the past six weeks.  Like other catchy names that have stuck around despite having fairly little to do with the infection they describe – I’m looking at you, ringworm – it tends to cause more trouble than it prevents.

Mono is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) which is spread mainly through the saliva of people who have had the infection.  EBV has also been isolated in cervical epithelial cells and seminal fluid, which suggests that it might be transmitted through sex as well.  (But I would suggest NOT bringing that point up with your girlfriend – it’s kind of theoretical and based on a blood test, so it’s really impossible to determine whether it was the kissing or the sex that spread the virus).     

Yes, heavy smooching is one good way to catch mono (they don’t call it “swapping spit” for nothing), but there are other ways to pick it up: sharing cups or utensils or toothbrushes.  Mono isn’t really a super contagious infection, but the virus can be shed in someone’s saliva for months or even years after the infection has cleared up, so it can be spread by people who aren’t actively sick.  Heck, if your girlfriend had mono in the past, it’s theoretically possible that you caught it from kissing her

What it comes down to is that it’s impossible to say exactly where or from whom you got the infection, but you can reassure your girlfriend that your having mono is not definitive proof of infidelity.

I hope this helps convince her that you are an upstanding guy.  If you want a little non-medical advice, I’d recommend sending her the link to this post on a card attached to some flowers. 

Good luck!

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

One thought on “Please tell my girlfriend I didn’t cheat on her!

  1. I feel bad for this guy. Mono can be had in so many different ways such as a glass at a restaurant that wasn’t properly cleaned.

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