Kazakhstan town hit by mysterious illness that causes people to suddenly fall asleep for days

​Just north of Kazakhstan is a sleepy village - literally.

A mysterious illness has plagued Kalachi where residents just fall suddenly fall asleep - sometimes even for days.

Resident Viktor Kazachenko, who was hit with this "sleeping sickness" said that it happened to him when he was driving to another town to run errands.

He suddenly fell into a six-day coma while driving.

Mr Kazachenko said: "My brain switched off... That's it. I don't remember."

He woke up in hospital and realised that he had fallen asleep for almost a week.

And this was the second time that Mr Kazachenko fell asleep suddenly.

"The first time I slept for three days," he said.

Illness affects you mentally, says affected resident

After his second extended slumber, his blood pressure would go up for no reason. 

Mr Kazachenko said: "For six weeks, I didn’t know where to put myself. It strongly affects your mentality. I’m on edge.”

He is among the over 120 residents who have been affected by this mysterious ailment that first struck early 2013.

Since then, the total number of cases have gone up to 152. 

Even doctors and scientists are baffled

Doctors and scientists haven't been able to get to the bottom of it.

Scientists said radiation is within acceptable levels, as is the concentration of heavy metal salts.

Elevated levels of radon and carbon monoxide were then detected. But that was soon ruled out as a cause.

Earlier this year, the director of the National Nuclear Centre's institute for radiation security said that increased carbon monoxide levels could have caused symptoms similar to the "sleeping sickness".

The country's government has set up a commission to coordinate the research to uncover concrete results. And by the end of last year, over 20,000 laboratory and clinic tests were conducted.

Desperate after Kazakhstan's doctors failed to get any results from tests, deputy prime minister Berdibek Saparbaev turned to the international medical community for support.

Residents think an abandoned uranium mine near the village, which was closed in the 1990s, could be the problem.

But none of the dozen-odd families living near the mine have been hit by the sickness.

Relocating residents

The authorities are now working at resettling the residents.

About 100 residents have relocated to prevent further exposure. About 425 residents remain with most unwilling to move.

“I’m not going anywhere,” says Mr Kazachenko. “Why should I go? I’ve been here for 40 years. I’m going to die here.”

Source: The Guardian