Diseases and infections carried in the saliva
Human saliva is laden with bacteria, which can easily be passed on through kissing, droplets expelled through sneezing, coughing, sharing cutlery, crockery and toothbrushes.
Saliva is a major carrier of diseases and infections
Saliva is the fluid / water secretes into the mouth by the salivary glands which lie in the mucus membrane of the lining of the lips, cheeks, tongue and pallet. Its primary role is to cleanse and moisten the mouth by flushing down into the stomach any mouth borne bacteria to be destroyed by the hydrochloric acid content of the stomach. Those who suffer from dry mouth or the reduced flow of saliva harbour on average four times more bacteria in their mouth.
Mononucleosis (‘mono’ for short) is commonly known as the ‘kissing disease’ or 'glandular fever’ and it is caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) which belongs to the herpes virus family and represents itself by the following symptoms:
1. Raised temperature
3. Sore throat
4. Raised white blood cells count indicating an infection.
The disease is global and aptly named the 'Kissing disease' because those who fall victim are usually teenagers between the ages of 15 to 17 years. However, by the time most people reach adulthood they would have developed antibodies against the EBV virus. By the time 95% of adults reach the age of 35 to 40 they can expect to have developed antibodies against EBV.
The virus is spread from person-to-person contact through their saliva usually as a result of kissing and it is in fact the commonest way it is spread amongst teenagers and young adults. Other transmitters include sneezing, coughing, the sharing of cutlery, mainly spoons and forks also the sharing of toothbrushes which is discouraged.
Apart for coughs colds and flu, there are other highly contagious and deadly diseases that can be transmitted through saliva not associated with kissing, but through airborne saliva droplets expelled by an infected person whilst sneezing. The transmission of Hepatitis A, B &C through saliva has been well documented. However, although the HIV virus, which is primarily blood-borne has been found in saliva, there is no evidence to show that the HIV disease has ever been passed through the exchange of saliva. The reason for this is believed to be because the amount of saliva exchanged whilst kissing is too small to pass on the HIV virus.
Polio can also be passed on (although well controlled these days as a result of childhood inoculation); meningitis, bacterial meningitis, cold sores and upper respiratory infections are all transmissible through saliva. The incubation period is usually between three to four weeks and once infected, transmission to others can continue for a few weeks thereafter.
Infections passed on through saliva is impossible to stop and can only be done if we were all to wear masks to avoid passing on salvia droplets. Not to mention how impossible it would be to ask teenagers to stop kissing whilst experiencing the first rush of passion. The best that can be hoped for is that medical help is accessed as soon as possible when the symptoms present, in an effort to treat the disease as quickly and as effectively as possible.