Cher's Infectious Disease Explained

At age 78, legendary singer and actress Cher seems invincible. She and her husband broke into the music scene in 1965 with the hit "I Got You Babe," and she's been a music icon ever since.

Her star was too big for the music and television industry, so she channeled her energies in the film industry with films like "Silkwood," "The Witches of Eastwick," and "Mask." You might remember her iconic scene in "Moonstruck" when she slapped Nicolas Cage and said, "Snap out of it!" The film would earn her an Academy Award.

Yet while she was filming "The Witches of Eastwick" in 1986, Cher noticed her energy draining. That's when she realized she had the highly contagious Epstein-Barr virus.

Epstein-Barr challenged Cher's invincibility while on set for "Mermaids," pausing production. "I was so sick I thought I was going to die," she said in an interview with Vanity Fair.

After finishing "Mermaids," Cher had to put a pause on her life, turning down many movie offers so she could take care of her health. She toldĀ The New York Times, "For two years, I couldn't work. It was terrible. I ended the second year with pneumonia."

Most people become infected with the Epstein-Barr virus

The Epstein-Barr virus spreads primarily through saliva, so you can become infected through kissing, coughing, sneezing, or sharing cups and utensils. If you touch a toy that's been in an infected child's mouth, you're also at risk for an infection. It also can spread through blood and semen, so people can get the Epstein-Barr virus through sexual contact or blood transfusions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of people have Epstein-Barr antibodies, which indicate a current or past infection. Most Epstein-Barr infections occur during childhood, and many infections don't come with symptoms.

People easily mistake symptoms of Epstein-Barr for a cold or flu because they share similar symptoms such as fatigue, fever, sore throat, or swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms might last up to four weeks, but some people might feel sick for months. What's troubling is that you might not experience symptoms right after you've come into contact with someone who's infected. Because symptoms might not show up for several weeks, you can infect other people without knowing.

Epstein-Barr virus can become dormant then reactivate

Unlike the common cold, the Epstein-Barr virus never quite leaves your system. Even if you recover from your symptoms, the virus becomes dormant in your body. However, you could experience symptoms again because the virus can reawaken. Because Epstein-Barr is caused by a virus rather than bacteria, antibiotics can't treat Epstein-Barr. Researchers are looking at how the antiplatelet drug dipyridamole might keep the virus from becoming active again.

Epstein-Barr can cause mononucleosis that can enlarge the spleen. This could cause the spleen to rupture, which requires surgery. Mononucleosis could also obstruct your airway and make it difficult to breathe. Other complications from Epstein-Barr include inflammation of the heart, brain, gallbladder, or pancreas. Pneumonia is another complication.

After Cher's bout with pneumonia, she returned to the recording studio and released "It's a Man's World." Although she told Vanity Fair in 1990 that she wouldn't make any more movies after "Mermaids," Cher has since appeared in"Faithful," "Burlesque," and "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again." She also released an album of cover versions of ABBA songs.