Communicable Diseases That Are Spread Through Saliva

Saliva is a necessary part of the digestive process. It begins when enzymes are produced to initiate the breakdown of foods during chewing. The continual production of saliva keeps the mouth moist. Many communicable diseases, however, find passage from one person to another through contact with saliva, such as when kissing or coughing.

Couple about to kiss (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Epstein-Barr Virus

Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV, is a common herpes virus that causes many diseases. Merck Manuals reports that EBV affects about 50 percent of all children in the United States by the age of 5 and as many as 95 percent of adults. The EBV germs transfer when contact is made with the saliva of the infected person, such as through kissing. Once infected, the Epstein-Barr virus stays in the body for life. The most common EBV among teenagers and young adults is infectious mononucleosis. Symptoms of infectious mononucleosis include fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat and extreme fatigue that may last six weeks or longer. Treatment consists of comfort measures for fever and pain. Since the cause is viral, antibiotics are not effective against the disease.


Influenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease with characteristic symptoms of muscle aches, headache, sore throat, high fever and a runny nose. Influenza easily passes from an infected person through any contact with mucus or saliva, such as through sneezing, coughing or kissing. Disabled World reports that there are three types of influenza: A, B and C, with types A and B being the more serious strains. Immunization against influenza focuses on types A and B for high-risk groups such as young children and the elderly. Treatment of influenza consists of antiviral drugs and comfort measures for the fever and pain.

Viral Meningitis

Viral diseases are the result of viruses that can attack all parts of the body--the skin, nerves, digestive system, muscular and skeletal systems. Viruses such as viral meningitis are highly contagious. Viral meningitis is the inflammation of the linings that cover the spinal cord and the brain. Transmission is easy through contact with mucus, saliva or stool of an infected person, as reported by Penn State University. Symptoms of viral meningitis include a headache, fever with chills, fatigue, nausea, neck pain and confusion. No treatment exists for viral meningitis. Comfort measures while the disease runs its course include medicine for fever and headache control, lots of fluids and rest. Antibiotics are not effective in the treatment of viral diseases.


Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a common virus that affects most people by the time they are teenagers, reports Once infected with CMV, the virus remains for life, usually in a dormant state. CMV spreads through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, such as saliva, urine and blood. People at high risk for CMV include babies born to infected moms and any person with a weak immune system.

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