About two years ago, Mark Schott, 40, was working 14-hour days in a Singapore corporate banking environment when he caught a flu that persisted longer than normal. Three or four weeks after its onset, a doctor told him it was a post-viral infection, which lasts about six months. For Schott, sore throats, headaches, post-exercise malaise and muscle weakness continued. He took further tests and was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). With CFS, he says, 'you know you've got it, but it's a disease of exclusion as the symptoms can be similar to other [conditions]'. Once doctors rule out other diseases and determine that the patient's symptoms match the criteria, they can make the diagnosis. Schott says he is typical of many CFS sufferers - a type-A, high achieving personality who was in a stressful job and overexerted himself during exercise. 'It's the overstretching of the immune system,' he says. Schott is determined to fight the so-far incurable condition that many doctors do not understand and are thus unable to treat. He began researching his condition about 18 months ago and has quit his job to reduce stress. Schott has consulted doctors abroad, but only found major benefits when he participated in the four-week intensive Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Recovery Programme in Australia (cfsr.com.au). The programme involves cognitive behavioural therapy (a psychological method to help change thought patterns), graded exercises, meditation, yoga and regulated eating and resting periods. Schott says the founders have independent research showing a 90 per cent success rate. Participants continue following the course regimen for six months after they finish, and Schott says he now feels a significant improvement. 'I'm quietly confident that I have found a cure,' he says, adding that the daily 30-minute walks he now takes were not possible before the course. In Hong Kong, rheumatologist Temy Mok Mo-yin, clinical assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong's Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, says recent research shows 4.4 per cent of the population suffer from chronic widespread pain and a further 20 per cent of that group have fibromyalgia, the 'brother or sister' of the chronic fatigue syndrome. 'It is more widespread than we realise,' says Mok. 'It's categorised by poor sleep and widespread pain. The symptoms are overlapping ... and it's not clear cut as there are no definite criteria.' However, Mok says recent research shows it's most likely related to a viral infection or neural-hormonal imbalances. Fibromyalgia and CFS are related to stress, and Mok says this is one of the first things she tells sufferers. Rheumatologists such as Mok offer treatment starting with increasing exercise, painkillers and anti-inflammatories and psychotherapy. 'It is related to stress and poor sleep ... [the treatment] has to be physical and emotional.' In 2005, a University of Hong Kong study concluded that 180,000, or 6.4 per cent, of Hong Kong workers were at risk of developing CFS. It suggested the syndrome was most common among engineers, followed by senior management staff and teachers. The study involved 1,013 healthy people aged 20 to 50. Findings showed 79 per cent, or 800 people, had symptoms of fatigue. Sixty-five were eventually diagnosed with CFS.