Chronic Fatigue Syndrome A Far Greater Public Health Problem Than Previously Known

CAA: Wednesday, October 21, 1998
The following is posted on behalf of Vicki Carpman Walker and
the CFIDS Association of America.


The CFIDS Association of America, Inc.
PO Box 220398
Charlotte, NC 28222-0398

Vicki C. Walker
The CFIDS Association of America, Inc.
Fax: 704/365-9755

CFS Far More Common than AIDS, HIV Infection or Lung Cancer

Cambridge, Mass., October 10, 1998 - In a study to be released today, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers have found that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)[1] is a far greater public health problem than previously known.

This study, the most extensive of its kind, estimated the overall prevalence of CFS at 183 cases per 100,000 in persons ages 18-69. As in other studies, the highest rates of CFS were found among Caucasian women, in which the prevalence nearly doubled to 340 per 100,000. In women overall, the prevalence was 303 per 100,000; in men overall, 53 per 100,000.

Dr. William C. Reeves, chief of the CDC branch responsible for the study, stated, "This study indicates that CFS affects women and men of all racial and ethnic groups, as well as adolescents. However, white women have the greatest risk for disease and this must be taken into account in planning allocation of health resources and searching for risk factors."

By examining the prevalence of other common women's diseases, the CDC researchers concluded that CFS is a serious women's public health concern.

"To put this into perspective, CFS is three times more common than HIV infection in women (125/100,000), 25 times the rate of AIDS among women (12/100,000), and is considerably higher than a woman's lifetime risk of getting lung cancer (63/100,000)," Reeves said.

This study was unique in that nearly 25% of the population of Sedgwick County, Kan. was surveyed and full medical evaluations were performed on those who reported the symptoms of CFS by telephone interview. Sedgwick County (Wichita) was chosen because of its demographic similarity to the U.S. as a whole. Few of the patients identified as having CFS carried that diagnosis already and most were not under the care of a physician. This finding helps explain the differences between the rates of CFS reported in this study and earlier CDC estimates that resulted from surveying physicians about the number of CFS patients in their practices.

The current CFS definition[2] requires that all other possible causes of the symptoms are excluded before the diagnosis is made. All persons who met the case definition for CFS, but also had any lifetime history of melancholic depression were excluded - even if that depression occurred years before the onset of CFS or resulted from the stresses of having a chronic, often disabling illness. When persons with melancholic depression and CFS were included in the numbers, the rates jumped to 248 per 100,000 overall; 404 per 100,000 in women of all races; and 458 per 100,000 in white women.

According to Dr. Reeves, "We're looking at the exclusion for melancholic depression much more closely now. Further understanding of these data will allow us to make recommendations about future case definitions."

Data from this study were presented Oct. 10 at The American Association for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome international research conference and again Oct. 13 at The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Coordinating Committee meeting. Both meetings were held in Cambridge, Mass.

Symptoms of CFS include debilitating fatigue, impairment of short-term memory or concentration, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain, headaches, unrefreshing sleep, and fatigue lasting more than 24 hours following exertion. To be diagnosed with CFS, a person must have had these symptoms for more than six months and cannot have any other medical explanation for them. Many CFS patients are unable to continue holding jobs, attending school or caring for family members because of the disease. Please see attached "Executive Summary" for more information about the CDC study.

1. CFS is also known as chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.)

2. Fukuda K, et al: "CFS: A Comprehensive Approach to its Definition and Study," Annals of Internal Medicine, 12/15/94.

# # # Editor's Note: For public inquiries about CFS, please provide 800-442-3437 or as a source of free information, 24 hours a day.

Random-Digit-Dialing Survey of Fatiguing Illness in Sedgwick County, KS (Wichita) Executive Summary
October 10, 1998
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Infectious Diseases Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Viral Exanthems and Herpesvirus Branch

Michele Reyes, Rosane Nisenbaum, David Hoaglin, William C. Reeves

Primary purpose of study: To determine the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fatiguing illness in Wichita, KS.

Secondary purposes: 1) To determine the prevalence of prolonged fatigue (> 1 month) (PF), chronic fatigue (> 6 months)(CF), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and 2) to compare these CFS prevalence estimates with other studies, specifically the CDC 4-City Physician-Based Surveillance (1989 - 1993) where Wichita was one of the study sites. In this latter study, the overall prevalence of CFS was 6.4/100,000 and was highest in white-women, 10.8/100,000.

Methods: This study was a population-based, cross-sectional, random-digit-dialing survey of residents in Sedgwick County (Wichita). The study was conducted in 3 phases: 1. Screener interview of households 2. Detailed telephone interview of all individuals with fatigue > 1 month and a number of non fatigued persons. 3. Clinical evaluation of persons with CFS-like illness to determine CFS classification

Results: We contacted 34,018 households representing 90,319 residents with phones (about 1/4 of the Wichita population) and 56,154 persons aged 18-69 years old.

Overall prevalence estimates per 100,000 persons 18-69 years old:

Prolonged fatigue....................10,835
Chronic fatigue.........................8,254

Prevalence estimates in women per 100,000:

Prolonged fatigue....................13,747
Chronic fatigue.......................10,570

CFS prevalence highest in white women: 340/100,000.

The CFIDS Association of America Advocacy
Information, Research and Encouragement for the CFIDS Community
PO Box 220398
Charlotte NC 28222-0398
Voice Mail: 800/442-3437
Fax: 704/365-9755
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