Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex disorder accompanied by unexplainable persistent fatigue, in which several etiological factors exist, such as viral infections. Using the National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) of Taiwan, this study evaluated the association between herpes zoster (HZ) infection and the risk of CFS, and examined the possibility of patients developing postviral fatigue effects, including the possibility of developing other unexplainable chronic fatigue conditions.

In this prospective cohort study using the NHIRD, we identified 9,205 patients with HZ infection [ICD-9 (International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision), code 053] and 36,820 patients without HZ infection (non-HZ) from 2005 to 2007, and followed up to the end of 2010.

The incidence rate of CFS was higher in the HZ cohort than in the non-HZ cohort (4.56 vs. 3.44 per 1,000 person-years), with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.29 [95 % confidence interval (CI) = 1.09–1.53]. It was shown that the risk of CFS without comorbidity for each patient increased from 1.25- to 1.36-fold between the CFS and non-CFS cohorts; with long-term follow-up, the HZ cohort showed a significantly higher cumulative incidence rate of developing CFS than the non-HZ patients.

We propose that patients with chronic fatigue might exist in a subset of patients that would be associated with HZ infection. The actual mechanism of development of CFS that is attributed to HZ infection remains unclear. The findings of this population cohort study provide pivotal evidence of postviral fatigue among patients with HZ infection.

Increased risk of chronic fatigue syndrome following herpes zoster: a population-based study by S.-Y. Tsai & T.-Y. Yang et al, in European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, April 2014

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