Mysterious sleeping sickness terrifies Kazakhstan


In the village of Kalachi, in the Akmolinsky region of Kazakhstan, another outbreak of mysterious "sleeping sickness" was reported. Three villagers were taken to hospital with symptoms of "encephalopathy of unknown etiology," Interfax reports with reference to the press service of the regional police.

On Wednesday, September 3, the local hospital received three patients - a 64-year-old woman and two minors - of 12 and 17 years of age.

As of September 2, as many as 15 people were hospitalized with symptoms of the so-called "sleeping sickness". The number of those, who either suffered or recovered from the disease, made up more than 60 people - about ten percent of the population of the 680-strong village of Kalachi.

The villagers began to ask for medical help complaining of drowsiness, memory loss and hallucinations. All of them were diagnosed with "encephalopathy of unknown etiology."

Numerous commissions from the Ministry for Healthcare, scientists from the Institute of Radiation Medicine and Ecology, other specialists, despite thousands of studies, have not been able to establish the exact cause of the disease.

Specialists excluded infectious and bacterial factors and assured that the radiation background in the village was within normal limits. The maximum permissible concentration of salt and heavy metals was not exceeded.

Noteworthy, the village of Kalachi is 600 meters far from the former urban-type settlement of Krasnogorsk, the population of which used to count 6.5 thousand people, mostly miners. The settlement belonged to the ore-mining industry of the former USSR. Uranium ore was mined near the village before the 1990s.

The mining of uranium was ceased in 1991-1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union; mines were closed. Currently, the population of the settlement counts 130 people.

In May this year, officials at the Ministry of Health said that one of the possible causes of "sleeping sickness" in the village of Kalachi could become a high concentration of vapors in basements during the heating season.

Kazakh media say that the number of those, who suffered from "sleeping sickness" is a lot larger than was officially reported. According to KTK TV channel, soon after celebrations of the start of the new school year on September 1, nine children went into hibernation. Having come back home from school, they would literally collapse, parents said. After waking up, the children were behaving inappropriately. They suffered from delusions and hallucinations; some had to be tied up as it seemed that they intended to hurt themselves.

In addition to children, seven adults fell victims of the mysterious disease as well.  Among them, there is a doctor of the rural hospital. The woman has been sleeping for five days already. Her neighbors help the woman at her home.

As previously reported, doctors did not suspect anything strange at first. Most of them thought that the people suffered from alcoholic poisoning. The situation turned out to be much more serious in March 2013, during the local holiday known as Nauryz, when six people were hospitalized within one week. Alcohol poisoning was excluded. The second wave came for Easter 2013 and repeated three times afterwards.

Some of the villagers have been hospitalized with the same diagnosis several times. In all cases, the patients suffered from fatigue, drowsiness, memory loss and weakness. After "waking up", the people do not return to their normal lifestyle. Adults complain of memory lapses and headaches, while children show very little activity.


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov