Press Release: 25 June 1997 -- Updated 18 November 1997

Contact: Albert Donnay, 410-889-6666

MCS Referral & Resources, Baltimore



Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia & Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Research results provided to the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and released in June 1997 by two of the VA's three Environmental Hazards Research Centers (EHRC) document the extensive prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) among Gulf War veterans. The diagnosis of these syndromes in Gulf War veterans had been rejected for years by both VA and Department of Defense (DoD) officials, despite numerous recommendations from MCS Referral & Resources as far back as 1994 that they investigate the extent of these clearly overlapping disorders.

Based on the random screening of 1,161 Gulf War veterans selected from the VA Gulf War Registry in the northeast, the New Jersey EHRC reported1:

28.5% of Gulf vets meet criteria for CFS (CDC 1994 definition)

12.5% of Gulf vets meet criteria for MCS (undefined "conservative" defn)

7.0% of Gulf vets meet criteria for both CFS and MCS

And based on examination of another 125 Gulf War vets from the northwest (most of whom were not yet in the VA Gulf War Registry), the OR EHRC reported1:

27% of Gulf vets meet criteria for CFS (CDC 1994 definition)

18% of Gulf vets meet criteria for FMS (ACR 1990 definition)

over 50% have either FMS or unexplained muscle & joint pain

DoD and VA, backed up by two IOM advisory committees and the Presidential Advisory Committee, have said repeatedly that they can find "no evidence of any new or unique syndrome" among the tens of thousands of vets examined in their registry programs. Ironically, they're right! The many CFS, FMS and MCS cases that VA researchers have finally documented are neither new or unique. But these disorders have been long ignored by VA and DoD, which still have not trained their physicians in their diagnosis and treatment, although VA at least does now have compensation guidelines for CFS and FMS. Not until 1996, however, did the VA start asking veterans even (and only) one question on MCS.

The new prevalence data suggest there may be tens of thousands of CFS, FMS and MCS cases among Gulf War vets--virtually all of which have been overlooked by VA and DoD physicians, despite years of so-called "comprehensive clinical evaluation." Given the massive extent of these undiagnosed and untreated syndromes, it is not surprising that so many veterans are still sick despite years of VA and/or DoD "care." Although the VA and DoD insist their treatment programs are working, they have resisted all efforts to study this. Despite over 125 federally funded studies of Gulf War veterans underway, not one has yet addressed the health outcomes and efficacy of DoD or VA medical care.

MCS Referral & Resources recommends 1) informing all Gulf War veterans about the "warning signs" of CFS, FMS and MCS, and 2) independent training for VA and DoD physicians and researchers on their diagnosis, reporting and treatment. To assist VA, DoD and other researchers, MCS R&R has developed a list of just 10 questions that can screen effectively for all three disorders: for CFS using the 1994 criteria of the US Centers for Disease Control, for FMS using the 1990 criteria of the American College of Rheumatology, and for MCS using four questions with better than 96% sensitivity and specificity developed by Johns Hopkins University researchers Dr. Penny Keyl and Dr. Ann Davidoff.

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