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Social History in Pictures

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients have fought an uphill battle to attain basic health care services, research funding, name recognition, and disability payments. Because of the name, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is often portrayed as a disease of the overtired. In reality, it is a Sissyfusian struggle against daily brain dysfunction, intractable pain, constant flu-like symptoms, dizziness and vertigo, post-exertional exhaustion, incomparable fatigue, immune dysregulation, sleep problems, and a host of other symptoms that define a complex condition unlike any other.

Facts about CFIDS:

CFIDS is more common in women than breast cancer, lung cancer, HIV infection, or multiple sclerosis.

CFIDS affects Latinos and African Americans disproportionately, and also affects people in lower income brackets disproportionately.

Though CFIDS is recognized as a disability by the ADA and the Social Security Administration, people with the illness are only half as likely as those with other disabilities to garner benefits on the first attempt.

Most people with CFIDS are unable to work in substantial gainful employment. Only 4% of those with severe CFIDS fully recover. Many with the illness are indefinitely bedbound.

Only one drug has made it the final testing stage of FDA approval for CFIDS patients. The disease is currently incurable and there are no drugs specifically geared toward CFIDS patients.

Only 44% of medical schools mention CFIDS in their curricula.

A Brief Social History in Pictures

What's in a Name? Everything.

Early on the CFIDS epidemic, newspapers coined the term "Yuppie Flu" to describe those first diagnosed, who often tended to be wealthy enough to afford the outlandish number of medical visits and tests necessary to obtain a diagnosis. Before long, it seemed everyone who didn't have the illness was claiming to have it, stating "Oh, I had that, too, but I got over it." This greeting card, produced by Carlton cards and taken off the market in the mid-1990's, depicts this common stereotype of CFIDS as a disease of incantation.

Another popular conception of CFIDS is that it is one long vacation, an escape from the fast-paced world. This billboard, originally erected at the Sydney, Australia International Airport for the 2000 Olympic crowd, was taken down after protests. It advertizes a vacation spot with the caption, "Hamilton: The Island That's Spoiling Australia." (photo courtesy of A. Gotsis)

Click here to see page two.

Buy Stricken: Voices from the Hidden Epidemic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome from The Haworth Press to learn more about CFIDS.

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