The idea of a sleeping curse might not be that far-fetched after all. An extremely mysterious sickness had hit a village in Kazakhstan last year: the people afflicted would fall asleep at random. Some have slept for 6 six days at one go while others suffered from hallucinations, fatigue and headaches. Since then, experts came up with different possible explanations as to the cause of the phenomenon. Recently, elevated concentrations of carbon monoxide from uranium mines have been suggested as a factor contributing to the disease.
Sleeping curse, you might think – something evil from fairy-tale lands, impossible to occur in our reality. But, the inhabitants of the tiny village in Kazakhstan did fall prey to a “sleeping sickness” back in March 2014. They would fall asleep while doing their daily activities: some have succumbed to deep sleep while walking, others while at school, and some on their motorcycles. The time that elapsed in this state differed from person to person. Upon waking up though, they did not have any recollection of what struck them.
Sleep disorder experts as well as other researchers had attempted to analyse the mysterious happenings. They were all flabbergasted. What could have been dragging the people into such deep sleep? Could it be Maleficent at work…?
Government officials have recently suggested that uranium mines might have been the cause. It is believed that high levels of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons might be emanating from the mines that remained closed since the fall of the Soviet Union.
“The uranium mines were closed at some point, and at times a concentration of carbon monoxide occurs there,” said Kazakhstan’s deputy PM Berdibek Saparbaev, to The Guardian. “The oxygen in the air is reduced accordingly, which is the real reason for the sleeping sickness in these villages.”
Some scientists are, however, not satisfied with this explanation.
A pulmonologist from Duke University Medical Center, Claude Piantadosi, explained that while the symptoms might fit, they are not specific. He has said that carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion – how could it be released from an inactive mine? Furthermore, when authorities tested for high carbon monoxide levels, they found nothing conclusive. Piantadosi has suggested that other gases such as carbon dioxide could have accounted for the sleeping sickness.