Carbon Monoxide, Lack of Oxygen Cause of Sleeping Sickness, Official Announces

ASTANA – The main cause of the mysterious “sleeping sickness” that has been plaguing the Krasnogorsk and Kalachi villages in the country’s Akmola region is the combined impact of carbon monoxide and other hydrocarbon gasses reducing the levels of oxygen in the air in the area, Deputy Prime Minister Berdybek Saparbayev announced on July 10 at a press briefing.

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Photo credit: Zamzagul Abdrakhmanova

“Today, the main cause of the disease of the residents of these two villages is identified. We conducted a medical examination of all the inhabitants of these two villages and brought in scientists and specialists, employees of the Institute of Radiation and Ecology and the Institute of Hygiene and Occupational Diseases, as well as the Institute of Nuclear Physics. The results were sent to Prague and Moscow, and from there we have received confirmation that the main cause of the disease in Kalachi is carbon monoxide,” Saparbayev said, according to Kazinform.

The deputy prime minister noted that during Soviet times, uranium mines were in operation near the villages. The mines were closed, causing, he said, a concentration of carbon monoxide in the air, which reduced oxygen levels. That has been causing the sickness, he said.

It has been reported that from one tenth to one quarter of the inhabitants of the two villages had been affected by the illness, which was characterised by falling asleep suddenly, remaining seemingly comatose for periods as long as several days, and often suffering from hallucinations after waking. Residents had long connected the uranium mine to the illness, but initially assumed radiation was the culprit.