Mono a Mano: Mononucleosis and the Rise of Vaping and the Hookup Culture Print


By Stella Ginsberg, Wesleyan Class of '21, and Malcolm Roesser, Bronxville Native and Wesleyan Class of '21

Jan. 9, 2019:  Has a friend ever beckoned to you in the dining hall with a cup filled with some mysterious liquid saying, "Here, try it"? If you've taken that cup, and if you've chosen to drink their subpar suspicious soda, your risk of getting mononucleosis automatically skyrocketed. However, with the recent rise in "hookup" culture and the increase of young adults who vape (use e-cigarettes), there are even more methods of transmission to worry about than sharing drinks. Otherwise known as the "kissing disease," and commonly abbreviated to "mono," mononucleosis is a disease that is rapidly spreading across nearly all college campuses. The disease itself is contracted through the sharing of saliva, explaining the appellation "kissing disease."

The highly stigmatized mononucleosis is an infection usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which has been present since before we evolved from chimpanzees. Many are infected with the virus as children with minimal to no symptoms and even more are infected during young adulthood. According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms consist of "extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat, head and body aches, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits, swollen liver or spleen or both, [and] rash." Mono might not seem like a serious threat or a potential epidemic, but if it goes unnoticed, severe complications can arise, including an inflamed liver or a rupture of the spleen. Though rare, mono can cause anemia, inflammation of the heart, malfunctions of the nervous system, and a decrease in blood cell clotting. All of these potential risks are enough to force people to stay out of class, sports, and other activities for weeks on end.

A recent epidemic on college campuses itself has been the increasingly popular Juul, a brand of e-cigarette that is so small that it looks like a flash drive. "Juuling" is trendy all across the United States but more specifically with college-aged kids, as evidenced by the masses of students on Wesleyan's campus who go about their days with a smartphone in one hand and a Juul in the other. The reason this presents a huge issue for the spread of mononucleosis is that it is extraordinarily common to share Juuls with other students at parties, during class, or just while hanging out. With communal use of the vape, germs and saliva are easily spread from one student to another, therefore making it much easier to contract diseases, mono included.

Another fad on college campuses today is the unpalatable hookup culture. In this day and age, many students are with multiple sexual partners for very short periods of time. With this activity comes not only the risk of contracting multiple sexually transmitted diseases but also the risk of getting diseases like mono. The more partners a person is with, the higher their chances become of getting mono, therefore explaining the title "kissing disease." Some students might not even know that they have contracted the disease because of the long incubation period, when no symptoms occur, and continue to hook up with other students, therefore spreading the virus without comprehending the potential damage that they may be causing.

Though mono has been around for years on end and has been handled in the past, the recent developments of hookup culture and Juuling have increased the need for change in behavior. Students, in general, should be extraordinarily mindful of sharing things such as drinks, food, vapes, and other saliva-ridden objects and should absolutely be careful about who they engage with in a sexual manner. The obvious answer to this problem would be to abstain from the communal consumption of things; however, while we, the authors, might like this idea, many students wouldn't comply. The next step would be to take great care of oneself if you are experiencing symptoms of any sort. If any of the aforementioned symptoms arise, it might be a sound idea to go to the doctor's office and get tested for mono in order to help yourself and to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Pictured here"JUUL pods" by Vaping360 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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