The emerging links between Covid-19 and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Illustration: Virginia Gabrielli

(Markham Heid/ Medium Elemental) — 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. (…)

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