Course of the whistling glandular fever


Pfeiffer’s glandular fever is caused by the Epstein Barr virus. This is a human herpes virus and highly contagious. You can get infected by kissing or sharing food.

The course of the disease is very different. This is shown by the fact that in Germany, at the age of 40, almost everyone carries the virus, but only a part of these people have lived through the Pfeiffer’s glandular fever. Anything is possible, from an asymptomatic course of the disease to classic symptoms and fulminant courses with complications.

The incubation period

The incubation period describes the time from infection with the virus until the onset of symptoms. During this time the viruses multiply in the defence cells of the human body. In the case of the Epstein Barr virus, the incubation period can range from one week to seven weeks. During this time one is already contagious for one’s fellow humans, especially shortly before the outbreak of the disease. Then the infection can occur especially if no symptoms show and you do everyday things with your fellow men as usual.

The course of symptoms

During the incubation period of Pfeiffer’s glandular fever, a general feeling of illness can already occur. The classic course of the disease is then characterized by inflammation of the pharyngeal tonsils, swelling of the lymph nodes throughout the body and fever. This is often accompanied by a pronounced feeling of tiredness, difficulty swallowing, headaches, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.

Enlargement of the spleen and liver can occur, which causes abdominal pain. The symptoms are present and severe, especially in the first week of illness. In some cases, the disease is already cured after that.

In other people the course of the disease is slightly milder or continues to be severe for up to three weeks. In 10% of cases, the weakening of the immune system leads to a superinfection with a bacterium that has to be treated with antibiotics. In a very small percentage of patients, severe complications occur, such as rupture of the spleen, involvement of the central nervous system or organ failure. In small children, the course of the disease is often asymptomatic with unspecific symptoms. These can also be confused with a simple cold.

The duration of the illness

Also the duration of the whistling glandular fever is different for every person. As already mentioned, some experience an asymptomatic course or a cold-like episode lasting a few days. If the disease breaks out and shows its typical symptoms, these usually last one to three weeks. In case of complications, the duration of the disease is increased and can last for several months. In some cases, fatigue and physical weakness in particular persist over a long period.