Background: The long term adverse effects of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a viral disease, are poorly understood.
Methods: Sleep physiology, somatic and mood symptoms of 22 Toronto subjects, 21 of whom were healthcare workers, (19 females, 3 males, mean age 46.29 yrs.+/- 11.02) who remained unable to return to their former occupation (mean 19.8 months, range: 13 to 36 months following SARS) were compared to 7 healthy female subjects. Because of their clinical similarities to patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) these post-SARS subjects were similarly compared to 21 drug free female patients, (mean age 42.4 +/- 11.8 yrs.) who fulfilled criteria for fibromyalgia.
Results: Chronic post-SARS is characterized by persistent fatigue, diffuse myalgia, weakness, depression, and nonrestorative sleep with associated REM-related apneas/hypopneas, an elevated sleep EEG cyclical alternating pattern, and alpha EEG sleep anomaly. Post- SARS patients had symptoms of pre and post-sleep fatigue and post sleep sleepiness that were similar to the symptoms of patients with FMS, and similar to symptoms of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Both post-SARS and FMS groups had sleep instability as indicated by the high sleep EEG cyclical alternating pattern rate. The post-SARS group had a lower rating of the alpha EEG sleep anomaly as compared to the FMS patients. The post-SARS group also reported less pre-sleep and post-sleep musculoskeletal pain symptoms.
Conclusions: The clinical and sleep features of chronic post-SARS form a syndrome of chronic fatigue, pain, weakness, depression and sleep disturbance, which overlaps with the clinical and sleep features of FMS and chronic fatigue syndrome.