Chronic Fatigue Syndrome :: Promoting awareness of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today launched a national public education and awareness campaign on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a weakening and often devastating illness for millions of Americans. The campaign, called “Get Informed. Get Diagnosed. Get Help”, is designed to increase awareness among clinicians and the public, because 80 percent of Americans afflicted with CFS illness may not know they have it.

“CFS is a terrible illness that prevents many people from taking part in everyday activities and participating in the things they enjoy,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “Fortunately, there are therapies for CFS that can reduce much of the pain and suffering. For those to be helpful, we need to make sure people with this illness know they have it, and that’s why this campaign is so important.”

The campaign will provide the latest information regarding the diagnosis and treatment of CFS, and will feature a traveling photo exhibit by renowned photographer George Lange called “The Faces of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” It also includes national print and broadcast advertising designed to raise awareness of the disease among patients and clinicians. A new website,, provides easy-to-understand, downloadable educational tools for patients, their families and health care professionals.

“This is an exciting day for Americans suffering from CFS and for the people who love and care for them,” said Kimberly McCleary, President and CEO of the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) Association of America. “This campaign will provide solid, scientifically based information for both patients and health care professionals on diagnosing and treating CFS.”

CFS is characterized by incapacitating fatigue (experienced as profound exhaustion and extremely poor stamina), sleep difficulties, and problems with concentration and short-term memory. It is also accompanied by flu-like symptoms, pain in the joints and muscles, tender lymph nodes, sore throat and new headaches. A distinctive characteristic of the illness is a worsening of symptoms following physical or mental exertion.

Diagnosing CFS is a challenging process because there is no diagnostic test or biomarker to clearly identify the disorder. Diagnosis is primarily made by taking a patient’s medical history, completing a physical exam and lab tests to rule out other conditions. If there are no abnormal test results or other physical ailments identified, clinicians can use standardized tests to quantify the level of fatigue and evaluate symptoms. Diagnosis can be complicated by the fact that the symptoms and severity of CFS vary considerably from patient to patient.

Because no cause for CFS has been identified, treatment programs are directed at relieving symptoms, with the goal of the patient regaining some level of function and well-being. Patients’ prognoses greatly improve with early intervention. At least half of those with CFS can return to their pre-CFS level of health if treatment is begun early.

“The CDC considers chronic fatigue syndrome to be a significant public health concern, and we are committed to research that will lead to earlier diagnosis and better treatment of the illness,” added Dr. Gerberding.

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