Study Estimates Rates of ME/CFS in England, Compares Case Definitions

The ME/CFS Observatory conducted a study of ME/CFS in three distinct areas of England Table-3to determine prevalence, incidence and the ability of three different definitions to detect ME/CFS (CFS) in 29 general medical practices that served a total population of 143,000. “The prevalence rate of cases meeting the CDC-1994 definition was 0.19%, of cases meeting the Canadian definition 0.11%, and of cases meeting [an Epidemiological Case Definition devised for this study] 0.03%.” Prevalence was higher in London (urban), among women and among white-British, compared to industrial or rural areas, men or non-white ethnic minorities. About half of cases that met the CDC-1994 definition also met the Canadian definition. “Comparisons between the groups conforming to the Canadian criteria and CDC-1994 criteria only (non-Canadian) have shown that all the reported symptoms were higher in the Canadian group.” The paper concludes by reinforcing the burden represented by the illness (regardless of definition) and the need to improve identification of subgroups to strengthen research. “Both groups have high levels of need for service provision, including health and social care. We suggest combining the use of both the CDC-1994 and Canadian criteria for ascertainment of ME/CFS cases, alongside careful clinical phenotyping of study participants.” (BMC Medicine, July 28, 2011)

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