Kalachi, a village in north Kazakhstan, has earned the nickname “Sleepy Hollow” since many of its 600 residents have been afflicted with a mysterious sleeping sickness.
For days at a time, residents of Klachi have been falling into a deep sleep, which is caused by excessive fluid in the brain, known as oedema. Doctors are baffled as to why their patient’s brains are suddenly surrounded by excessive fluid and have ruled out viruses, bacterial infections and contaminated water as the cause of the epidemic.
However, the town is near an abandoned Soviet-era uranium mine. Though radiation poisoning is not known to cause this condition, it’s one of the only clues doctors have in this health crisis.
In addition to days of sleep, those afflicted often suffer vivid hallucinations and dizziness. A film crew with Russia Today discovered a mine shaft with that had radiation doses 16 times higher than expected. Some, but not all, of the miners have fallen ill.
Some residents think the cause may be more sinister and related to Kalachi’s close proximity to Russia. Alsu Shjeladeva, a local resident, said she believes toxic waste was being dumped in the area. The Daily Mail reported she told Russia Today that some men had gone into a mine shaft and detected a sweet smell. “We are afraid of what lies in store. We're afraid that we may all fall asleep.”
The outbreak allegedly began in April 2010 with Lyubov Belkova. She claims to be the first resident to have fallen asleep and has since suffered seven episodes of oedema.
Though experts remain baffled, they are concerned prolonged oedema could have long term consequences on the development of the afflicted children's brains.
Professor Jim Horne, a sleep expert at Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre, believes sleeping is a symptom of a larger condition. “It doesn't seem like a sleep disorder to me - more likely a mild form of encephalitis,” he said.
“Most seem to recover quite quickly- so maybe its a virus- but then several seem to go down all at once, which suggests environmental contamination as there doesn't seem to be any fever.”
Russia Today said none of its crew suffered any symptoms while investigating the story.
Source: Daily Mail Image via Russia Today