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The Emerging Links Between COVID-19 And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Sunday 30 August 2020


From Elemental:


Illustration by Virginia Gabrielli
(Illustration: Virginia Gabrielli)

The Emerging Links Between Covid-19 and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome may hold keys to understanding post-Covid syndrome

By Markham Heid
August 28, 2020
This article has been made free for everyone, thanks to Medium Members. For more information on the novel coronavirus and Covid-19, visit

Almost everyone is familiar with the short-term symptoms of an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. These include a fever, cough, breathing problems, fatigue, diarrhea, and other flu-like symptoms. While some doctors have raised alarms about the infection’s potential to inflict lasting organ damage, the popular perception of Covid-19 is that a small percentage of patients die and the rest recover.

But as the pandemic has stretched on, experts have begun to recognize that many Covid-19 patients — maybe even a majority — continue to grapple with a range of “post-viral” symptoms.

Some of these patients eventually get all the way back to normal, even if it takes a few weeks or months for that to happen. But some don’t. And for those who have yet to fully recover, there’s a growing suspicion that the virus may act as a catalyst for a condition that is commonly, if a bit misleadingly, known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

“Prolonged fatigue as well as brain fog and other persistent symptoms have been reported in a lot of Covid-19 patients,” says John Swartzberg, MD, an infectious disease expert and emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He says that these post-viral symptoms are typical of chronic fatigue syndrome, an illness that also goes by the name myalgic encephalomyelitis and is often abbreviated ME/CFS.

“We know that in patients who develop [ME/CFS], it’s often triggered by a bad viral infection,” he says. “And so there’s the thought that SARS-CoV-2 could be a cause.”


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