Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Infectious?

16 09 2010

A couple of studies written up over the past year suggest that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), may be an infectious disease.

Hold your horses, said CDC this summer.  They did their own study and found no such result.   The retroviruses, or virus gene sequences, other researchers have found to be common in a significant number of CFS+ study participants were not found by CDC in their study.

Talk about “conflicted findings!”  Which study is accurate?

If CFS in an infectious disease, then how do we treat and prevent it?

Until we know what causes CFS, prevention is nearly impossible.  Treatment options are all over the board and will likely remain so until causative agents are identified, and in most cases, physicians are managing rather than treating the illness.  CDC recommends the following options for CFS patients:

  • Professional Counseling
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Graded Exercise Therapy (GET)
  • Symptomatic Treatment
  • Alternative Therapies
  • Support Groups
  • Pharmacologic Therapy
  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Pain Therapy
  • Orthostatic Instability Treatment
  • Antidepressants

Another thing to consider: If CFS may be an infectious disease, what about our blood supply?  CFS is hard to diagnose, so how many potential blood donors rolling up their sleeves can be accurately identified and stopped from giving blood?  Or should they be stopped?  If CFS isn’t infectious, then probably not, but if it is, then probably so!

Dr. Harvey Alter at the NIH is the scientist to watch on this.  He’s a superstar in the world of viral hepatitis, and it looks like CFS might be his next big thing.

There’s too much conflicting information right now as to the cause of CFS, but to be affected by (or infected with) CFS is not easy.  The millions of people living with it deserve our attention.  We need to tip the scale so that we have more answers than questions.


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17 09 2010
Nicola Reiss

Please note that there are studies showing that graded exercise therapy (GET) can make this illness WORSE. Any child (or adult) suffering from “CFS” (myalgic encephalomyelitis) should never be pushed to do any form of exercise beyond what is comfortable for that child. The best approach is to learn to “pace” one’s activities, balancing sufficient rest with activity (including mental activity). One of the best websites providing further information for children with the illness is the Tymes Trust in the UK: http://www.tymestrust.org/

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