This prospective cohort study was designed to test whether a distinct fatigue syndrome existed after the onset of glandular fever. Two hundred and fifty primary care patients, with either glandular fever or an ordinary upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) were interviewed three times in the 6 months after the clinical onset of their infection. At each interview a standardized psychiatric interview was given and physical symptoms were assessed.
There were 108 subjects with an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection; 83 subjects had glandular fever not caused by EBV and 54 subjects had an ordinary URTI. Five subjects were excluded because they had no evidence of an infection. Principal components analyses of symptoms supported the existence of a fatigue syndrome, particularly in the two glandular fever groups. The addition of symptoms not elicited by the standard interviews gave the full syndrome. This included physical and mental fatigue, excessive sleep, psychomotor retardation, poor concentration, anhedonia, irritability, social withdrawal, emotional lability, and transient sore throat and neck gland swelling with pain. A fatigue syndrome probably exists after glandular fever.