news Sunday, March 29, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | March 29, 2015 | 10.57 am IST

A quarter of the people in a tiny Kazakh town have literally fallen asleep on their feet in the last two years being stricken by bouts of a sleeping sickness that appears to have no identifiably cause.

The Telegraph reports that residents of Kalachi town, which has a population of 600 people, fall asleep for days together suddenly and wake up feeling disoriented, weak and also report hallucinations, memory loss and speech impairment. People of all ages, sexes and even animals have been known to fall asleep in the middle of whatever they were doing and wake up two-six days later.

According to The Telegraph, local authorities say that these attacks come in waves, the current bout is the ninth one. They also say that such attacks increase when there is a thaw rather than when the ground is frozen, but there is little else to identify the cause of the problem. 

Doctors and scientists have ruled out bacterial or viral infections, and have unable to pinpoint another cause for these attacks which were first reported in 2010. However, Alternet reports that the attacks began to occur more frequently after March 2013. 

In the absence of any other explanation, locals and some scientists too, have pointed fingers at Krasnogorsk, a mining town that until the 1980s, produced uranium ore for Soviet Russia's nuclear weapons programme. 

The Telegraph quotes resident Lyubov Bilkova as telling Russia’s state-owned Vesti television station: “One moment you’re talking, the next you’re asleep. Sometimes you don’t sleep, but you look like you’re drunk.”

Bilkova said she had suffered at least eight attacks of the “sleeping sickness.” She said: “Everyone is afraid. Everyone is afraid of sleeping.”

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