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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the Topic of New Campaign

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the Topic of New Campaign

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingWhen you're exhausted your body aches, you can't concentrate, you just want to sit down. But what if you get plenty of rest and still can't snap out of it for days, weeks, even years?

It's called chronic fatigue syndrome and the government believes a million Americans have it. They're rolling out a new public awareness campaign to convince skeptics the disease is real.

There are many doctors who don't believe in chronic fatigue syndrome -- they tell patients it's all in their heads. That's one reason the CDC is trying to get the word out that there is scientific evidence this condition really does exist.

Fourteen years ago Elly caught a cold that changed her life.

Elly Brosius, Chronic Fatigue Patient: "I went to work and I'd end up lying on the floor."

She had no energy. She tried eating right and exercise but nothing helped.

Elly Brosius: "You find out that rest isn't helping and every day you wake up you're more exhausted than you were the day before."

Eventually diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, she's been on disability ever since. Since it's hard to diagnose, many patients are told it's all in their heads.

Dr. James Baraniuk, Chronic Pain & Fatigue Center: "The doctor doesn't understand it. As a result, he says, 'You're crazy. You're nuts. Get out of here.'"

The CDC estimates 80 percent of those with chronic fatigue syndrome may not know they have it. A new public awareness campaign aims to educate patients and doctors.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director, Centers for Disease Control: "We are committed to improving awareness that this is a real illness."

Besides doctors, Dr. James Baraniuk says some of the biggest skeptics are drug companies who are reluctant to fund research.

Dr. James Baraniuk: "You tell them about chronic fatigue sydrome and their eyes just roll over and they just walk away, 'cause, 'Oh yeah, here's another flaky doctor with these flaky people."

But the evidence is growing. Studies have linked chronic fatigue syndrome to brain abnormalities and immune system deficiencies. Elly Brosius and thousands of others hope research will help them discover why they've felt so tired for so long.

The average chronic fatigue patient is a woman in her 40s or 50s. Female patients outnumber men four to one.

A large CDC study found this condition costs the US nine billion dollars a year in lost wages.

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