An Overlooked Disease

11.02.12

Pay More Attention to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Ryan Prior's short USA Today piece shines some light on the rarely discussed condition.

The history of the illness, which is believed to have begun in North America in 1984 (and in the U.K. as far back as the 1930s), may be short on length, but it is long on pain and tragedy. That tragedy has been measured in millions of lives barely lived, millions in misappropriated funds and, in some cases, horrific and inhumane treatment of patients. Despite widespread cynicism about the progress of CFS research, Obama’s letter was, by most accounts, an unequivocal bright spot. According to Free, that April day was the first time a sitting U.S. president had publicly uttered the words “chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Some 900,000 Americans suffer from CFS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or about one in every 340 people. This number is slightly less than the HIV rate, and about three times the rate of MS. Yet the NIH funding for CFS is just 1.25% that for MS.