If the Epstein-Barr virus is thought to be connected to MS, is it possible that I got that virus from a woman I worked with for four years, which then led to my MS? My co-worker was diagnosed with PPMS during our first year of working together, and her husband's first wife was diagnosed with MS several years before that. This seems like too much of a coincidence. Thanks.
The association between viral infections and MS have been studied for decades. Most of the studies have failed to reveal a direct cause and effect relationship. The best data suggests that if the “right” person gets exposed to Epstein-Barr virus at specific times in their life, then their risk of MS goes up significantly. So, it is not as simple as a coworker passing along a virus. The Epstein Barr virus is ubiquitous – it could come from anyone and usually someone with close contact to a person, not a casual co-worker. Beyond this, it is worth noting that MS is actually a common disease. With a prevalence of 1 in 900, it is rare for a person in the US NOT to have contact with people with MS. Thus, while there definitely could be a link to meeting people with MS, the disease was probably triggered years before that meeting occurred.
Benjamin M. Greenberg, MD, MHS
Director, Transverse Myelitis, Neuromyelitis Optica and Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Programs
Director, Neurosciences Clinical Research Center
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Childrens Medical Center