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Could This Documentary Change The Way We Perceive Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Wednesday 25 October 2017


From UK newspaper The Telegraph:


Jennifer Brea
Filmmaker Jennifer Brea in London last week
(Credit: Andrew Crowley/Telegraph)

Could this documentary change the way we perceive chronic fatigue syndrome?

By Guy Kelly
24 October 2017
© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2017

It has been more than 60 years since a bewildering epidemic swept through the Royal Free Hospital in north London, rendering almost 300 members of staff incapacitated and forcing the place to close for three months.

At the time, in 1955, the mysterious, polio-like outbreak (called simply ‘Royal Free disease’ for a while) had no obvious cause, certainly no cure and varying symptoms – extreme tiredness, headaches, sore throats, depression, inflammation of the spinal cord – in each victim, frustrating doctors more than it fascinated them.

In the same year, the new condition was written up in the medical journal The Lancet as “myalgic encephalomyelitis”, later shortened to ME. The mystery remained, though. By the 1980s, despite further cases having been identified all over the world, the entire Royal Free episode was put down to “hysteria”, while the illness received the dismissive nickname “yuppie flu”. At best, doctors (and employers, and friends and family, and strangers) were sceptical of victims’ insistence their problems were physiological, not psychological. At worst, they were denounced as malingerers.


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