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The New York Native

The Contagious Cover-Up

Neenya Ostrom

The largest chronic fatigue syndrome patient advocate group in the United States has, for all intents and purposes, declared war on the epidemic’s most prominent author over the subject that seems to draw the line in the sand between those who are willing to tell the whole truth about CFS and those who are not:  contagion.

In its most recently-published CFIDS Chronicle (spring 1996), the CFIDS Association of America (in Charlotte, North Carolina) has mounted a merciless attack upon Hillary Johnson’s new book, “Osler’s Web:  Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic (Crown, 720 pages).  Instead of celebrating the publication by a major publishing house of an important book describing in the minutest detail the history of the disease the CFIDS Association has been attempting to publicize for nearly a decade, the organization has marshaled all its experts to attack Johnson because she writes that there is evidence to prove CFS is contagious.

In the spring issue of the Chronicle, the Association consulted numerous physicians and researchers—most of whom are government employees or receive government funding for their “AIDS” or CFS research—and asked if they considered CFS to be contagious.

Only one was brave enough to answer in the affirmative.

Never mind that the CFIDS Association has distributed tens of thousands of dollars—collected from sick people, their families, and concerned individuals—for research to identify a causative agent of CFS.  Much of this money has been spent investigating various viruses; considerable amounts were invested over the past few years to investigate a retrovirus as a cause of CFS.

If CFS is not contagious, why is the CFIDS Association spending money to search for a viral cause?

Why not just spend that money providing services to home-bound and disabled CFS patients?

The abandonment of the best interests of CFS patients by the CFIDS Association coincides, rather ironically, with the abandonment of Gulf War Syndrome patients by the Pentagon.  It is ironic because an increasing number of researchers are suggesting that CFS and GWS are, in many cases, indistinguishable from each other.

The Pentagon, with all its resources, has admittedly gone the CFIDS Association one better.  The Department of Defense not only insists thatGWS is notcontagious (in the face of evidence showing that the illness is being contracted by spouses and children of Gulf War veterans), it coincided within a week of the publication of the Chronicle that GWS, in fact, does not even exist

That is an astonishing conclusion, even for the Pentagon.

Even researchers who insist that neither GWS nor CFS is contagious admit that the two are virtually identical, Dr. Benjamin Natelson, who is a CFS researcher in addition to being the head of a New Jersey VA center established to study Gulf War Syndrome, has just stated publicly that he believes a majority of GWS cases to be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Natelson, who directs the year-old East Orange VA Medical Center Persian Gulf War Research Center, told the Star Ledger his research has found strong links between GWS and CFS.

In addition, to his government supported GWS research, Natelson also oversees one of three centers charged with investigating CFS funded by $ 3 million (divided between the three sites) from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where Stephen Straus conducts research attempting to prove CFS is a psychiatric condition.

Not surprisingly, Natelson, who was unavailable for comment for this article, appears to support most of the government’s line on both syndromes.

As in the dispute between the CFIDS Association and Johnson, the major points of disagreement between independent researchers and government-supported researchers (like Natelson) on both these syndromes—disregarding the flat-earthers who insist neither syndrome exists—is contagion.

Patients know that these two syndromes are contagious.

Ask husbands and wives, both of whom have either GWS or CFS, if they think their illness is contagious.  Ask the CFS patients who trace their illness to blood transfusions or sexual encounters if they think their illness is contagious.  Ask the sports teams, orchestras, and groups of co-workers (like teachers and nurses) who’ve all contracted CFS within the same time frame if they think it’s contagious.

Then ask parents with GWS who’ve had babies with unbelievably severe birth defects—including missing eyes and/or ears, blood infections, respiratory problems, and fused fingers—if they think whatever is making them ill has been passed on to their babies.

But don’t as the Pentagon if GWS is infectious.

Don’t ask any of the government-supported CFS researchers or members of the American Association for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome(AACFS) if CFS is transmissible.

And whatever you do, don’t ask “patient advocate groups” like the CFIDS Association of America if CFS is contagious.

In fact, the disinformation campaign about Johnson’s citation of data showing that CFS is contagious is being waged so intensely that the CFIDS Association can now be compared to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon says GWS doesn’t exist.

The CFIDS Association got 16 mostly-government supported researchers to state that CFS is not a contagious illness.

Just as the Pentagon can examine 19,000 sick Gulf War veterans and conclude they don’t have any actual illness, the CFIDS Association can look at all the evidence amassed that CFS is atransmissible illness and deny its existence.

The Department of Defense is referred to by some GWS patients and researchers as the Department of Denial”; the CFIDS Association may soon have to adopt some variation on that name for itself.

Ironically, it is Johnson who has pointed out in the greatest detail the undeniable similarities between CFS and GWS.  In Osler’s Web, Johnson notes that almost identical symptoms are experienced by CFS and GWS patients, including fatigue, upper respiratory ailments, hair loss, headaches, joint pain, diarrhea, and “two constant, unifying symptoms: varying degrees of exhaustion and a peculiar intellectual cloudiness marked by short-term memory loss and poor concentration.”  (P. 632)

Johnson notes that the first inquiry into GWS conducted by the Office of the Army Surgeon General in March 30, 1992 (a little more than a year after the war’s end), not only found no cause for the symptoms the soldiers were experiencing:  In a move reminiscent of government research conducted on CFS, the Army’s report laid the blame on psychological stress.  (P. 623)

In a bizarre twist, Johnson notes that the Walter Reed doctors who evaluated sick Gulf War veterans in 1992 considered CFS a possible cause of the mysterious new syndrome.  According to their report, however, not enough of the soldiers could document that their daily activities had been reduced by 50 percent or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s definition of CFS.

The Army doctors were made increasingly uncomfortable, according to Johnson, with comparisons between their handling of GWS and the post-Vietnam war Agent Orange debacle.  So in 1992, the VA set up a Persian Gulf registry; by early 1994, 13,000 veterans had signed up as sufferers of the new malady. (P. 624)

Perhaps most disturbingly, Johnson produces evidence of CFS mini-outbreaks among soldiers before the Persian Gulf war.

“If small outbreaks of CFS—either recognized or unrecognized—occurred on US military bases before the war, it was not unreasonable to imagine that conditions in the Gulf War theater might have hastened the spread of, resulting in a more conspicuous attack rate,” Johnson points out:  “The history of CFS—indeed, the history of most casually transmitted infectious diseases—suggested that institutional settings, or any setting where groups of people lived in close contact, enhanced opportunities for outbreaks to occur.”  (P. 626)

In December 23, 1993, Army Major General Ronald R. Blanck had admitted by GWS bore many similarities to CFS.  He wrote to a CFS patient, “I personally remain convinced that multiple agents, such as low-level industrial chemicals, acting simultaneously on more susceptible individuals, has caused the chronic fatigue (CFS)CFIDS-like syndrome we are seeing.  While we are taking many different avenues of approach toward recovering the etiology of the Gulf War Syndrome, we are also reviewing the criteria for CFS and its modified use in the realm of possible disability compensation for ailing veterans.”  That disability compensation has indeed been granted by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown.

But while researchers and administrators like Blanck and Brown were attempting to aid sick Gulf War veterans, other government officials were working just as hard to undermine the credibility of the sick soldiers and the reality of their ailment.

A Pentagon study made public in December 1994 “points strongly away from the idea of a single cause of their illnesses, the Pentagon said today,” the New York Times reported December 14.  

“There is no magic bullet,” said Dr. Stephen Joseph, the former New York City Health Commissioner who is now the ranking officer in the GWS investigation, Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs.

“It’s clear we have not identified a single or unique cause or agent which would be responsible for a large number or significant proportion of the illnesses in our Persian Gulf veterans,” Joseph said at a 1994 Pentagon news conference.  “The broad spread of symptoms and diagnoses that we’re finding points very strongly away from there being a single illness or disase.”  The 1994 study examined approximately 1,000 sick vets.

The Pentagon study that “confirmed” that there is no GWS—by studying 19,000 sick veterans who had served in the Gulf—was released April 3, 1996.

Newsday reported that the 1996 Pentagon report found the most common diagnosis among ailing Gulf War veterans to be “psychological ailments, followed closely by a category called ‘ill-defined conditions’ and musculoskeletal disease.”

Joseph again attributed the vets’ illness to psychiatric factors.

“The lesson of this is:  When you send a large number of healthy young people to a very stressful environment—surprise, surprise—some proportion of them come home with a variety of illnesses,” Joseph commented to Newsday.

GWS patients are, clearly, receiving the same compassion and concern from government scientists as have CFS patients all along. Sadly, as Johnson reports in her book, the one ranking officer who appears to understand that GWS is a serious malady, Blanck, is getting his information about CFS from the government researcher who has stigmatized CFS patients more than any other:  Stephen Straus. (P. 663)

The CFIDS Association is not the only CFS organization attempting to blackball Johnson’s book.  Like the Pentagon declaring that there is no Gulf War Syndrome, the American Association for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (AACFS) has declared, “there is no Chronic Fatigue epidemic.”

AACFS is a non-profit organization composed of research scientists, physicians and health professionals and institutions that was formed in January 1993.  According to an article describing the organization by former CDC head of CFS research Walter Gunn, the AACFS was formed because it was determined by the National CFS Advisory Council that “There was a clear need for a body of CFS researchers and clinicians who could provide scientific direction for future research and promote the exchange of scientific information among CFS researchers and clinicians” (“The AACFS Unites CF(ID)S Researchers,” CFIDS Chronicle, Summer 1993).

By early 1995, membership in the AACFS had grown to 250 researchers, clinicians and other medical professionals, according to an article by Kimberly Kenney, Executive Director of the CFIDS Association of America.  Kenney’s article, “AACFS Decision Provokes Intense Response” (Spring, 1995 issue) was a justification of the decision of that body to publish the proceeds of the 1994 International CFS/CFIDS/ME Research Conference (October 2-4, 1994) in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.  This decision, not to surprisingly, had outraged enough patients and members of the Association that Kenney felt it necessary to justify the decision.

At that time, Paul Levine, M.D., a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, was AACFS’s president. 

Levine is still directing the organization, as evidenced by a memorandum to the members of the Board of Directors of the AACFS that was supplied anonymously to the Native.  Dated April 1, 1996, the memo discusses the response of the organization to the publication of Osler’s Web.

The memo item discussing the book is titled simply, “Osler’s Web.”  It says:  “At the last conference call (see Dharam’s [Ablashi’s] minutes which have just been prepared) there was a discussion of Osler’s Web, Hillary Johnson’s perspective on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that the AACFS has been asked to review.  A small committee was asked to prepare a response which would be reviewed by the board, and I am now submitting a draft for your comments.  A rapid response (before April 9) is needed in writing either by FAX or email.  Depending on the comments, there will be either another FAX with the final document, and a 24 hour response deadline or a conference call for any who designate the need for discussion (as well as others who want to participate in a conference call if they are available).

“N.B. I welcome phone calls but really need written changes so that I can document the responses for the Board of Directors. Thank you for your help with this document.”

What follows is a two-page document titled, “AACFS Commentary on Osler’s Web.”   The text of that document, in its entirety, follows.

    “The AACFS has been asked to comment on the recent publication entitled Osler’s Web by Hillary Johnson, a book that describes in detail the reported outbreak of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in northern Nevada/California in the mid 1980s (reference all peer reviewed articles, including Holmes, et. al. JAMA, Buchwald et. al. Annals. Daugherty, et. al. CID, Levine et. al. Archives….any others?).  Since the majority of the Board of Directors of the AACFS are described in the book we clearly believe we have a reasonable perspective on the events portrayed in Osler’s Web. We would note the following:

  1. Ms. Johnson is a gifted writer whose book has clearly documented the impact that chronic fatigue syndrome, a disabling enigmatic disorder, placed on the individual affected patient.  In her perspective as a patient with CFS and in our perspective as an advocacy group interested in disseminating accurate information regarding CFS, we share the concerns that more funds are needed to CFS research just as all advocacy groups would like additional federal funds devoted to their areas of concern.
  2. Ms. Johnson is not a scientist, and many of her interpretations of the events she described are not shared by the Board of Directors of the AACFS.  We therefore re-emphasize a points that we make repeatedly to the medical community and patient groups that the most reliable information on any illness can only be obtained through the peer reviewed literature, and therefore we caution the reader about the accuracy of Ms. Johnson’s statements, many of which are controversial to say the least. The particular areas of concern to us which were embellished in recent TV interviews are the following:
  3. Ms. Johnson describes CFS as “a contagious brain disease.”  CFS certainly does involve the brain in most cases but is not contagious.  Ms. Johnson confuses the occasional occurrence of CFS in individuals involved in an outbreak of infection, such as that described in Incline Village or Yerington with CFS itself being contagious.  Current evidence indicates that CFS results from a number of triggers, both infectious and non-infectious, and the disorder probably requires other co-factors (such as genetic pre-disposition) which are more important than the triggering agent.  Some of the documented triggering agents, such as Borellia (the agent of Lyme disease), giardia and enteroviruses can be acquired through a common source such as ticks or the water supply and therefore outbreaks do not mean that the infecting pathogen is contagious from person-to-person.  The AACFS believes that the emphasis on contagion is harmful to the CFS patient not only because it is undocumented but also because it makes the CFS patient even more of a pariah than he/she already may be.
  4. The title, Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic on the cover of the jacket is misleading.  There is no Chronic Fatigue Syndrome epidemic.  It is likely that CFS has been with us for centuries and there is no evidence that the incidence is increasing.  There is, of course, increasing awareness of CFS as one might expect since there were other names given to this disorder since 1988.  The letters sent to Drs. Cheney and Peterson from patients outside of the Nevada/California area emphasize that the disorder occurs throughout the country and the recognition, not the incidence, is new.  In fact, it would be difficult to document trends of a syndrome which was not described until the case definition in 1988 (which, incidentally, was developed by a group convened by the Centers for Disease Control, one of the government agencies attacked by Ms. Johnson for inattention to the problem).

In summary, it is no surprise that an author (which would include scientific writers as well as non-scientific writers) will use information to make the points that will sell the book and convert the reader to his/her interpretation of the facts, but it is critical that the reader recognize that Ms. Johnson is able to say whatever she wishes without the same type of critical peer review that goes into scientific publications.  The peer reviewed literature remains the most reliable source of medical and scientific information available to us at the present time, and publications such as Osler’s Web, regardless of how well they are written, should not be accepted uncritically without comparing the author’s opinion with those of credible scientists.  The difficulty of determining how to deal with the complex and often contradictory approaches of science, the media, Government and the law will be the subject of several workshops on CFS, “Gulf War syndrome,” and the issue of silicone breast implants at the AACFS meeting in San Francisco October 13-17.”

Two astonishing assertions leap out from this remarkable document.  The first concerns journalists’ freedom of speech.

In his memo, Levine suggests urging sick citizens to consult the peer-reviewed medical literature for information about diseases from with they suffer rather, than reading the work of journalists.

Isn’t the job of journalists—particularly science writers—to interpret and distill the technical information contained in the peer-reviewed medical literature so that the general public can understand it?

How many non-professionals regularly consult the Annals of Internal Medicine or the Journal of Virology?  

Is Levine removing science from the purview of the First Amendment, not only by his references to the medical literature, but also to Johnson, as a non-scientist?  Does freedom of speech no longer apply to medical-ethical-social policy questions or oversight of government agencies?  I suspect New York Times op-ed columnists Willliam Safire, Frank Rich, and Maureen Dowd would be surprised to learn that they should no longer comment on any aspect of, for instance, the “AIDS” epidemic because the Timesis not peer-reviewed.

And since when are CFS patients considered, in any sense, to be “pariahs?”  Johnson is only suggesting that data exist to show that the illness is probably contagious; it is Levine the healer who condemns CFS patients to being viewed as pariahs—which would have been a subject for investigation onto itself.

The Spring 1996 CFIDS Chronicle, according to its editors, consulted 16 “well-known CFIDS clinicians and researchers to respond to the question:  Is CFIDS contagious?”

Three of them were unable—or unwilling—to participate in this exercise:  Drs. Paul Cheney, (who discovered the Nevada outbreak with Dan Peterson), David Bell (who discovered the upstate New York outbreak), and Peter Rowe (one of the Johns Hopkins researchers who thinks CFS is simply low blood pressure).

Quotes (from the CFIDS Chronicle) from each of the responding researchers follow.  Some made very long, generalizing and qualifying statements from which what appears to be their actual opinion about contagion has been extracted.  Those comments lifted from within longer statements are noted by ellipses.  Some researchers gave a one-sentence response; they contain no ellipses.

    

Dedra Buchwald, MD, University of Washington:  “Although decreased cognition is a very common complaint among persons with CFS and clearly an area of great concern for patients, providers and researchers alike, at this time there is no evidence that CFS is a ‘contagious brain disease.’”

 

Jay Goldstein, MD, Anaheim Hills, CA:  “…Thus far, there is no single viral candidate for precipitating CFS, and multiple agents could be implicated.”

 

Nancy G. Klimas, MD, University of Miami:  “…While the cause of CFS remains a mystery, the careful scientific process of elimination goes on, and a single viral pathogen has gone from hypothetically possible to extremely unlikely through the time-honored method of critical scientific evaluation….”

 

Anthony Komaroff, MD., Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston:  “There’s no proof that CFS is contagious.”

 

Charles Lapp, MD, Charlotte, N.C.:  “There is absolutely no evidence that CFS is contagious…”

 

Paul Levine, MD, National Cancer Institute:  “Most experts in the field agree that CFS/CFIDS is not contagious…Calling CFS contagious is clearly a step in the wrong direction.”

 

Jay Levy, MD, University of California, San Francisco:  “CFIDS is not a contagious disease….”

 

Mark Loveless, MD, Oregon Health Sciences University:  “I know of no objective evidence that CFS/CFIDS is a contagious disease due to a transmissible agent.”

 

Benjamin Natelson, MD, University of New Jersey School of Medicine:  “There’s no evidence that CFS is contagious.”

 

Daniel L. Peterson, MD, Incline Village, NV:  “…Certainly, clusters of CFIDS such as occurred in Lake Tahoe, Yerington (NV), Placerville (CA), New York, North Carolina and many other areas suggest that a transmissible agent is at least a co-factor in the initiation of the disease process (in a susceptible host.)  As such, I concur with Ms. Johnson’s postulate that CFIDS is a potentially contagious disorder.  Having been intimately involved with the CDC and the NIH during their research of this disorder, I find her descriptions of their involvement to be accurate and poignant.”

 

William Reeves, MD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  “…In conclusion, given the currently available data from peer-reviewed studies, CFS does not appear to be a contagious disease.”

 

Jonathan Rest, MD, University of California-San Francisco:  “There is no reliable evidence that CFS is a contagious disease…”

 

Stephen E. Straus, MD, National Institutes of Health:  “…The question [of CFS’s contagiousness] assumes that chronic fatigue syndrome is all one entity, which it may well not be.  Nevertheless, I feel that chronic fatigue syndrome as a whole is NOT a contagious entity.”

The fact that the CFIDS Association consulted Straus—who doesn’t even believe CFS is a coherent disease, and has probably done more harm to CFS patients with his psychoneurotic theories of causation than any other government official—is an outrage in and of itself.

That CFS is a non-contagious disease has not always been the position of the CFIDS Association of America.  In the Spring 1995 issue of the CFIDS Chronicle, the association published “A Guide to CFIDS.”  One of the questions asked and answered in that guide was, “What causes CFS?”

The answer only a year ago (1995) was:  “…based on physical and laboratory findings, many scientists believe that viruses are associated with CFIDS and may be directly involved in causing the disease.  Since the discovery (or rediscovery) of CFIDS in the United States in the mid-1980s, several viruses have been—and continue to be—studied to determine what, if any, part they play in the disease…..  To date, no virus has been conclusively shown to be an essential element of CFS.  Accordingly, research efforts are still directed toward identifying and isolating the fundamental agent(s) responsible for triggering immune system disruption in persons with CFIDS (PWCs)…”

Another question in the guide was, “Is CFS contagious?” 

The answer in 1995 was:  “It is entirely likely that the agent(s) that trigger CFIDS are transmissible.  CFIDS has been reported in many children and monogamous adults and ‘clustering’ of cases in families, workplaces and communities also seems to occur.  Whether a person develops CFIDS is believed to be a function of how his/her system deals with the causative agent(s).  However, most people in close contact with CFIDS patients have not developed the illness.  Most clinicians and researchers agree that persons with CFIDS should refrain from donating blood, blood products, or organs until the mode of transmission in CFIDS is better understood.”

The newly-adopted position that CFS is not transmissible, as evidenced by the attack on Johnson in the newest Chronicle (no matter how much the organization denies that is its new position) rather obviates the need for all the research the Association has funded aimed at finding a viral cause (in particular, a retroviral cause) for the illness.

So what has the CFIDS Association been doing with the money it raises (primarily) from sick people and their families and supporters?

According to Frank Wrenn, who is the Director of Communications and Development for the CFIDS Asssociation, 1995 revenues were $1,308,607.   Fifty-seven percent of that came from individual donors, 27 percent came from dues paid the organization (i.e., from individuals or groups); eight percent from sales of educational materials, five percent from the Association’s informational 900 number; and three percent from grants.

During 1995, expenses were $1,337,120.  That money was spent on education (43 percent); research (29 percent); “public policy” (12 percent); and development (six percent).

Research funding in 1995 (29 percent of total expenditures) equaled $364,842, and supported seven research projects.  Two investigated the role of the natural anti-viral pathway 2’-5’A/RNase L/PKR in CFIDS; two supported viral studies (one of which was titled, “Characterization of a Virus Isolated from a CFS Patient); one supported an investigation of “immunologic mediators” of CFS; and the last two were rather esoteric biochemical studies.

Four of the seven studies, then, funded by the CFIDS Association in 1995 looked for evidence of a viral infection, directly or indirectly (i.e. the natural anti-viral pathway studies).

Which leads to the question I posed to the Association:  If CFIDS is not contagious, why is the CFIDS Association spending thousands of dollars to look for retroviral or viral etiologic agents?

The answer supplied by Wenn on behalf of the Association is:

“First, this assumes that the Association has taken an official stance that 'CFIDS is not contagious.'  The official position of the CFIDS Association of America is that no one knows what causes CFIDS or if it can be transmitted.  Most people in close contact with CFIDS patients have not developed the illness; however, clusters of cases have occurred in families, workplaces, schools, and communities.  Several of these clusters have been investigated and no infectious agent has been found.

“Some researchers are trying to identify viruses or etiological agent(s) responsible for causing CFIDS.  Scientists are also studying immunologic, neurologic, endocrinologic and metabolic abnormalities and risk factors (such as genetic predisposition, age, sex, prior illness, environment, and stress) which may affect the development and course of the illness.

“Even an assumption that there is a ‘responsible viral agent’ does not necessarily imply that a person who has CFIDS is contagious.  As Dr. Jay Goldstein pointed out, ‘viruses may cause "hit and run" infections in which long-lasting alterations of cellular function can occur after the virus has disappeared….’

“Secondly, many have missed the point that a viral agent may be infectious without being contagious.  There is a distinction.  According to Taber’s Medical Dictionary, contagious is defined as communicable; transmitted readily from one person to another either directly or indirectly, with reference to the organism that causes a disease. Infectious diseases are, on the other hand, are defined as:  Any disease caused by growth of pathogenic microorganisms in the body.  May or may not be contagious.  This, it is possible that a disease can be caused by an infectious agent, yet not be readily transmissible.

“What causes CFIDS?  How is it transmitted?  What is the long-term prognosis?  The fact is, the most accurate answer to that question is ‘we don’t know.’   That exactly is why there is a need for research and research funding, from both private and public sources.  Only continued research will solve the puzzles this illness presents, cure those who have it and protect those who might get it.”

This statement does an admirable job of splitting definitional hairs, but fails to explain why the CFIDS Association lined up an impressive array of well-known researchers to insist that Johnson is flat out wrong about CFS being contagious (among other insults, some amounting to ad hominem attacks, from some of those researchers that are not produced herein).  Even the Association admits in its statement that it doesn’t know for sure if the disease is contagious.  So why get all these high-powered researchers to insist it is not?  This appears to be a case of protesting too much.

And why should people have to be “protected” from CFS, as the Association states as a goal, if it is not transmissible?

There is one absolutely incorrect statement in the CFIDS Association’s document:  “Several of these clusters have been investigated and no infectious agent has been found.”  

That statement is absolutely not true, and its rebuttal, as AACFS leader and NCI employee Paul Levine probably will be happy to know, appeared in the peer-reviewed medical literature.  It is contained in a research report co-authored by Anthony Komaroff, who stated flatly in this latest CFIDS Chronicle that there is no evidence CFS is contagious.

But another story was told in a January 1992 research report in the peer-reivewed Annals of Internal Medicine (Vol. 116, Number 2, page 103) in which Komaroff was identified as the senior member of the research team.  The report described an investigation of the 1985-1986 Incline Village, Nevada outbreak, accepted, even by the CFIDS Association, as a cluster.

Komaroff and his colleagues reported in the Annals that, “Finally, in every instance, supernatant from the primary cell culture [of blood cells from the Lake Tahoe CFS patients] produced the same cytopathic effect in cord-blood lymphocytes, demonstrating that a transmissible agent was indeed present in the patients’ lymphocytes and that this agent was HHV6.”

Was that agent in fact HHV6-A, which Wisconsin researcher Dr. Konnie Knox has shown produces most of the immune system and neurological damage seen in “AIDS” patients?

In 1992, it was not possible to distinguish between HHV-6A and its more benign relative, HHV-6B—but it is now.

If most or all CFS patients are infected with the highly virulent and destructive HHV-6A, as Knox and others have shown some to be, that is yet another link between the CFS and “AIDS” epidemics.

And that suggests that this wildly emotional, rapidly-accelerating debate over whether CFS is contagious could simply be a red-herring to distract from the really emotionally disturbing question, is CFS actually part of the “AIDS” epidemic?

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