Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a major cause of school absence

Children between 11 and 16 enrolled in three secondary state schools in England were observed by researchers for poor attendance, with a view to finding out the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS or ME) amongst the age group.

The school identified those children who missed more than 20% of school, without a known cause, over a six-week term, excluding those known to be truanting. Those children with fatigue were referred to a specialist CFS/ME service for further assessment.

Four hundred and sixty one out of 2855 school-enrolled children had missed up to or more than 20% of school. Three hundred and fifteen children, of whom 3 had CFS/ME, had known absences. Of the remaining 146, 112 with unexplained absences attended the school’s clinical review: two had been previously diagnosed with CFS/ME, and 42 were referred on to a specialist clinic. Of these 42, 23 were newly diagnosed as having CFS/ME. In conclusion, 28 out of 2855 had CFS/ME. 19 children were followed up, of which six recovered after six weeks, and a further six after six months.

The researchers from Bristol University, UK, led by Dr Esther Crawley, conclude that CFS/ME is an important cause of unexplained school absence, and diagnosis through school based clinics could speed up recovery when treatment is accessed.

Source: British Medical Journal  

First Published in December 2011


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