I was milking cows, as usual, early in the morning, and fell asleep. 'I remember nothing at all, only that when I came round I was in a hospital ward, and the nurses smiled and me, and said: "Welcome back sleeping princess, you've finally woken up.What else do I remember? Nothing. I slept for two days and two nights.
In an interview she gave to the Siberian Times, Marina Felk, a 50-year-old resident of Kalachi, Kazakstan shared her own experience with a bizarre sleeping epidemic that has been periodically striking residents of two neighbouring towns on the Russia-Kazakhstan border.
The first outbreak is believed to have occurred in March, 2013 and over sixty cases have been diagnosed to date. There is also widespread fear that one elderly resident may have been buried alive because his symptoms occurred before the sleeping condition was first identified.
Along with the inhabitants of Kalachi, the few remaining residents of the nearby town of Krasnogorsk, Russia have also been reporting sleeping episodes lasting as long as six days in some cases. Krasnogorsk, which was once home to more than 6500 people during the boom period during the U.S.S.R., when the nearby uranium mine was operated in secret by the Soviet government. At present, the 130 who still live there are struggling to survive the mine's closure. That struggle was made even worse by the recent onset of the still-unexplained sleeping epidemic affecting children and adults alike.
Children have been reporting symptoms such as weakness, hallucinations, dizziness, and memory loss while adults are simply blacking out. The epidemic has been coming in waves with the most recent occurring just weeks ago.
According to Dr. Kabdrashit Almagambetov in nearby Esil, the symptoms are often the same. "When the patient wakes up, he will remember nothing. The story is one and the same each time -- weakness, slow reactions, then fast asleep. 'Sadly, the nature of this condition is still not known. We have excluded infections, we checked blood and spine liquid, nothing is there. We categorised it as toxic encephalopathy, but 'toxic' is just a guess here, and encephalopathy is just the title of the set of brain diseases."
Why some patients are being affected when others living in the same house remain unaffected is still a mystery. While local residents have speculated that the outbreaks are most likely to occur following a sudden rise in temperature, no evidence of environmental causes have been found to date.
Although the abandoned uranium mine is the presumed cause of the epidemic, health officials have conducted more than 7,000 tests which have found no apparent link. Other hypotheses, including radon gas leakage, infection, and contamination of the local water supply have all been ruled out. People affected by the sleeping epidemic appear to respond well to general treatment and some health officials at the Moscow Institute have openly speculated that the cases may be psychogenic in nature.
For now, residents are uncertain whether they will be affected next. Many have packed overnight bags to take with them in case they need to be rushed to hospital. Until health authorities can find a definite cause, all they can do is wait.
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