Chronic Viral Infections and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What are Chronic Viral Infections?

Chronic Viral Infections are basically long lasting viral infections, like Influenza, Rhinovirus (the common cold) or Meningitis. A virus often lingers long after its main symptoms have made us sick, then better again. The virus can stay in the body without producing any major symptoms, although it often takes a long time to recover fully from the virus.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) causes severe fatigue that is not alleviated by prolonged rest. It must last longer than six months to be considered chronic, and can be accompanied by muscle aches, joint pain and headaches, as well as some forms of depression and anxiety. Those with CFS have difficulty performing daily tasks which used to be easy, and for others are easy. They often experience memory problems and trouble sleeping.

What Does a Viral Infection Have to do With CFS?

Not everyone is sure of the answer to this question. Scientists first noticed similarities between the symptoms of viral infections and CFS. When we have a virus, we often experience headache, body aches, trouble sleeping, fatigue and difficulty resuming normal tasks. These are all symptoms of CFS as well. Oftentimes, CFS will begin with these symptoms, making it difficult and time consuming to diagnose. Doctors still debate the causes; some reporting it as part psychological, part physical. Others claim it is caused by genes, a virus, the immune system or hormones. Fortunately, there is no evidence shown that supports the theory that CFS is contagious, that it is spread by casual contact or sexual intercourse. CFS has been linked to Epstein Barr Virus, as well as Herpes Virus 6. Other studies linked it to a stomach virus and still others to the immune system. While it seems that there are too many conflicting opinions, it's important to stay focused on what you can do while in the process of determining if you have CFS.

What to do in the Meantime

If you are in the process of determining if you have CFS or a lingering viral infection, be sure to get plenty of rest, eat well, avoid caffeine or alcohol or excessively sweet foods. Try some gentle stretches or light yoga to keep your body moving, but only as much as you can comfortably do. Be sure to consult your doctor before engaging in too much activity. Keep a journal of the duration of symptoms, note any activity that triggers symptoms and what alleviates them.


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