Press Release
April 30, 2009


Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago wants the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct studies on the disease Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and the number of Filipinos suffering from it.

"It appears that CFS has slipped under the DOH's radar, despite the fact that more and more Filipinos are being afflicted by it," she said.

Santiago has filed a bill in the Senate aimed at raising public awareness on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Late 2008, Santiago was diagnosed by her doctors as suffering from CFS. She had to take a leave of absence from the Senate upon the advice of her doctors.

Recently, Cristina Ponce Enrile, wife of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, resigned from her post as ambassador to the Vatican , after being diagnosed with CFS.

CFS is a complex illness that produces extreme fatigue over a prolonged period. The condition has also been called post-viral fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome. The condition impacts primarily on the immune system, nervous system, muscles, and endocrine system.

Although the number and severity of the symptoms may vary, the major symptoms of CFS are: extreme tiredness lasting at least six months; impairment of short-term memory or concentration; sore throat; tender lymph nodes; muscle and joint pain without swelling or redness; difficulty sleeping; headaches; and prolonged muscle fatigue and feeling ill after even mild exertion.

CFS sufferers may also experience abdominal pain, earaches, intolerance to alcohol, chest pain, coughing, dizziness, nausea, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, bloating, dry eyes and mouth, jaw pain, joint stiffness in the morning, night sweats, depression, and weight loss.

Since the disease carries varying symptoms, CFS is often unrecognized or misdiagnosed. The condition is more prevalent among women aged 25 to 45, but it can affect children and adults of any age and people from all ethnic groups. In the United Kingdom alone, it is estimated that there are 150,000 people suffering from CFS.

Santiago complained of dizziness, nausea, and arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat prior to being diagnosed with CFS.

Santiago wants the DOH and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) to carry out a national campaign to increase public awareness and knowledge of CFS.

The campaign is aimed at the dissemination of information on the causes, prevention, and diagnosis of CFS, as well as available treatments for CFS-sufferers.

"One of the challenges faced by CFS-affected persons is the apparent lack of recognition regarding the seriousness of the disease. A CFS patient faces the social stigma that he or she is just malingering, wants attention, or is feigning CFS-like symptoms," the senator explained. "This stigma can have a negative psychological effect on the patient and may cause prolonged recovery from the disease."

The feisty senator also decried the DOH's inaction on a bill she has filed, the "Youth Suicide Prevention Act."

The "Youth Suicide Prevention Act" was one of the first bills Santiago filed when she was reelected senator in 2004. She has since refiled it in the 14th Congress.

Santiago lost her son Alexander Robert to suicide in 2003.

The 2001 World Health Report revealed that in 53 countries where complete data were available, suicide was a leading cause of death among young adults. In the United States , suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24 years old. More teenagers and young adults in the US die from suicide than from a combination of cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, and chronic lung diseases taken together.

Media reports show that suicides among Metro Manila students, particularly those attending prestigious schools, are rising at an alarming rate.

"The government, through the Department of Health and the Department of Education, should treat youth suicides as a serious public health issue. The early intervention and prevention of youth suicides should be a national priority," Santiago said.

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