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Syndrome rarer than reports claim.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may be in the news more than in the general population. Hyped as the epidemic of the 1990s, it results in debilitating fatigue and neuromuscular and neuropsychological symptoms. The syndrome is said to occur more frequently in women than men and has been linked to viral infections, immune deficiency, psychiatric disorders, and even allergies. Its cause and cure remain unknown.

The Centers for Disease Control lists major symptoms as persistent and debilitating fatigue of six months or more that results in a significant reduction in routine activities. It defines minor symptoms as mild fever, sore throat, painful lymph nodes, general muscle weakness and discomfort, prolonged fatigue, headache, joint pain, and neuropsychological complaints such as transient visual problems, forgetfulness, slow thinking, depressed mood, and sleep disturbances.

Rumi K. Price, research instructor of epidemiology in psychiatry, and Carol S. North, assistant professor of psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, found only one person in their study of more than 13,500 people who met the diagnosis for chronic fatigue syndrome. Less than one-quarter of the study population had experienced fatigue lasting two weeks or more, and, in about half of that group, it was explained by physical illness or medication. The CDC criteria excluded chronic fatigue syndrome as the diagnosis if an accompanying medical or psychiatric condition could explain the condition. As a result, many of those who initially appeared to meet the major criteria for the syndrome actually did not. Of the population with fatigue who had accompanying problems, 90% had a medical or psychiatric condition, which excluded them from qualifying for a CFS diagnosis.

"Though we found it rare, this is a very serious disorder and we're not taking it lightly," North maintains. "People who have this syndrome are often disabled in both their personal and professional lives, and even those who don't have other serious conditions to explain the disease are very sick."

Price says chronic fatigue syndrome has received a great deal of attention because its symptoms are devastating and debilitating. "We don't want to say there is no chronic fatigue syndrome, but we didn't find the kind as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. We are pointing out some inconsistencies with what the media reports and what may be a more accurate number of cases."
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Title Annotation:chronic fatigue
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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