This condition (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME) was first described in the 1950s following an outbreak of a viral illness, initially in Coventry and subsequently at the Royal Free Hospital. The patients presented with a specific constellation of symptoms which occurred within six months of a virus infection. Until recently there have been no specific diagnostic tests for ME and diagnosis has tended to be based on the history and clinical picture together with the reassurance of a battery of negative tests excluding other conditions with similar symptoms (such as brucellosis, thyroid disease and immune problems).
It was originally called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) as it was felt to be an inflammatory condition, originally triggered by a coxsackie virus which affected the muscles and the nervous system. Subsequently other virus infections, such as glandular fever appeared to cause the same symptoms, leading to the term Postviral Fatigue Syndrome. Nowadays, other non-viral triggers such as stress and emotional issues have been implicated and the more global term of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is used to cover the range of conditions that lead to a prolonged fatigue state. Nevertheless, many people are more familiar with the term ME.