There is still no medical or scientific explanation for it, yet it has been written about since the 1750s. Twenty three times between 1934 and 1958, it struck in epidemic proportions in the United States, England, Iceland, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Greece and South Africa. It has been called Iceland Disease, Royal Free disease and acute infective encephalomyelitis. The physical misery it causes has been compared to advanced cardiac disease or cancer.
It is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and it affects up to 4,000 Australians. CFS victims suffer long term, debilitating fatigue. They may also develop frequent sore throats, painful lymph nodes, headaches, difficulties with concentration and memory and low-grade fever. The profound fatigue is usually made worse by physical or mental effort, and rest gives no relief.
CFS can strike men and women of all ages, and of all fitness levels, including those at elite sporting level. Recently, the United States Centre for Disease Control, in Atlanta, added Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to the list of Priority One, New and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, putting it alongside E. Coli and Tuberculosis.
Researchers at Southern Cross University in Lismore have been working since 1997 to help further understand factors contributing to the cause of CFS and possible ways to treat it. Now they need help from people in the Northern Rivers and Tweed region as their work moves to a new level.
The university’s School of Exercise Science and Sport Management is looking for 30 diagnosed sufferers of CFS in the Northern Rivers to take part in a six month project involving weekly monitoring and two sessions of walking on a treadmill.
One of the leaders of the Southern Cross research team, Rosanne Coutts, says that the project will study breathing and the effects of oxygen therapy on sufferers. Volunteers can contact Rosanne by telephone on 6620 3235.