Special problems of children with ME/CFS and the enteroviral link.

Journal: Journal of Clinical Pathology. 2006 Sep 11; [E-publication ahead of print] Author and affiliation: Colby J. Affiliation: Tymes Trust, United Kingdom. [E-mail: jane.colby@tymestrust.org ] PMID: 16935964

Since 1997, it has been known that ME/CFS constitutes the biggest cause of long term sickness absence from school [in the UK], in both staff and pupils. The scale of the problem in children is substantial, and the pattern of illness in schools suggests a prominent role for virus infection, for example, the clustering of cases.

The Dowsett/Colby study of 1997, researching long term sickness, reported on a school roll of 333,024 pupils and 27,327 staff, and found a prevalence of 70/100,000 in pupils and 500/100,000 in staff; 39% of cases were in clusters of 3 or more. The peak age was 14-16 years. The illness is known to be potentially very severe and chronic. In addition, the Tymes Trust has reported that many affected children struggle for recognition of their needs and feel bullied by medical and educational professionals.

Children should have time to recover sufficiently before returning to school; sustainable, energy-efficient and often home-based education is important here, to fulfil legal obligations. Research is needed into viruses that trigger childhood ME, for example, enteroviruses, and into the neurocognitive defects caused by ME. We should recognise the value of previous biological research and records of outbreaks, and I recommend that ME be made notifiable due to the encephalitic nature of the effects commonly reported in this illness.

Keywords: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, children, enterovirus, schools

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