To: State Desk, Medical and Health Reporter
Contact: CDC Media Relations, 404-639-3286
ATLANTA, April 25 /U.S. Newswire/ — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently launched a study of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and related illnesses in 14 metropolitan, urban and rural areas in Georgia. The study is designed to gather information about key features of the little-understood illness and the number of people it affects in specific population groups.
First identified in the 1980s, CFS is characterized by a severe and debilitating fatigue that does not improve with rest. Its cause is unknown, and the illness is difficult to diagnose. An estimated 800,000 people in the United States have CFS or similar illnesses, and minorities and people with lower incomes appear to be affected more often than others.
The study in Georgia is intended to help researchers better understand the risks for CFS among different population groups, according to Dr. William Reeves, CDC’s lead CFS researcher.
“Georgia is an ideal environment in which to conduct this type of study, because its population is so ethnically and socially diverse,” said Reeves. “The major goals of the study are to help us better understand the illness and its symptoms, and to provide CDC and collaborating researchers with information that will lead to improved treatment of CFS and possibly even a cure.”
As a part of the study, CDC has contracted with Abt Associates Inc. of Chicago, to conduct a telephone survey of 17,000 randomly selected Georgia households. Interviewers begin by asking several questions to identify household members who may have CFS or similar illnesses. All household members who identify symptoms consistent with CFS (about 5,000) and similar numbers of unwell and well people identified during the interviews will complete more detailed interviews.
Those who appear to have CFS, based on the detailed interview will be offered clinical evaluations (about 500) as will approximately 600 unwell and well people who were interviewed. Clinical evaluation will include a free medical and laboratory examination. These participants will be paid for their time and given the results of their laboratory tests.
When the study ends this spring, researchers expect that more than 7,000 people will have completed the telephone survey and more than 700 of these respondents will have visited study-site clinics in Atlanta and Macon, Ga.
The study will help provide a picture of how many people may be affected by CFS and similar illnesses in the study area and will allow CDC to estimate the burden imposed by CFS in Georgia and across the United States. To help ensure that the study evaluates a diverse cross-section of the state’s population, Abt Associates has randomly selected households from 14 areas, of which two are major metropolitan areas (DeKalb and Fulton counties), two are urban (Bibb County, including the City of Macon and the City of Warner Robins in Houston County), and 10 are rural (Baldwin, Bleckley, Crawford, Houston (except Warner Robins), Jones, Macon, Monroe, Peach, Twiggs, and Wilkinson counties). Participation in all aspects of the study, including the telephone screening, is voluntary.
CDC first became involved in CFS research two decades ago, when it investigated an outbreak of an unknown illness characterized by debilitating fatigue among residents of Incline Village, Nevada.
Since 1988, CDC has conducted a series of studies describing the clinical features of CFS, identifying risk factors and diagnostic markers, and estimating the prevalence and incidence of CFS in the United States. Although the cause of CFS remains unknown, the research program has helped to increase knowledge about CFS and other fatiguing illnesses.