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The Sleepy Sickness

Article #205 • Written by Alan Bellows

Beginning as early as 1916, and continuing well into the 1920s, an unusual and disturbing illness devastated millions of people throughout the world. It arrived in the shadow of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic-- which killed an estimated fifty million people worldwide-- so it has been largely overlooked by history despite the fact that it took the lives of over a million people, and left countless others frozen inside unresponsive bodies.

Young people, particularly women, were the most vulnerable to the disease, though it affected people of all ages. When an individual was stricken, the first signs were typically a sore throat and fever accompanied by a headache; but these discomforts soon developed into more alarming problems such as double-vision and severe weakness. Within hours, most of the victims were gripped by episodes of tremors, strange bodily movements, intense muscle pains, and delayed mental response. Symptoms rapidly increased in severity, and in spite of medical attention, most patients worsened dramatically. Behavioral changes often appeared-- including psychosis and hallucinations-- followed by steadily increasing drowsiness and lethargy. Many became comatose and completely unresponsive.

Medical science was baffled by the bizarre epidemic, which affected millions of people across the globe. The mysterious disease was given the name Encephalitis lethargica, which literally means "inflammation of the brain that makes you tired," but it was more commonly known as "sleepy sickness." Such a melancholy designation was appropriate, considering that hundreds of thousands of people died from the inexplicable ailment without ever regaining consciousness.

Among the survivors, victims tended to remain in a coma indefinitely, sometimes for months or years. Although full recoveries were not unheard of, they were a rarity. Many of those stricken with the disease experienced ill effects which lingered throughout the rest of their lives, including vision problems, difficulty swallowing, personality changes, and sometimes permanent psychosis.

One very common problem to befall people recovering from the sleepy sickness was Postencephalitic Parkinson's disease. This caused life-long symptoms such as slowness, tremors, speech problems, and abnormal muscle movement. In some cases, individuals retained their hearing, intelligence, and reasoning, but were left in a catatonic state, unable to respond to stimuli. This parkinsonism sometimes took up to a year to appear in recovered patients.

In 1928, as suddenly as it had appeared, the encephalitis lethargica epidemic was gone. Although new cases stopped being reported, thousands of those affected were housed in institutions for decades, alive but trapped within useless bodies. In 1969, over forty years after the strange disease disappeared, some catatonic victims were treated with a newly developed antiparkinson drug called Levodopa. A number of patients improved dramatically upon treatment-- they stood up from their wheelchairs and became conscious, responsive, and aware of the world around them-- but it was soon evident that their miraculous recovery was tragically short-lived. Most patients slipped back into a catatonic state within days or weeks, and repeated dosages were useless. The 1990 movie Awakenings is based on such experiences described in the memoirs of Dr. Oliver Sacks.

MRI of a somnolent patient showing inflammatory regions.
MRI of a somnolent patient showing inflammatory regions.

Cases of encephalitis lethargica since the original epidemic have been scarce, but in 1993 a twenty-three year old woman was hospitalized after suffering fever, tremors, hallucinations, and strange arm movements. Her brain was dangerously inflamed, and to the doctors' surprise, the cause was ultimately determined to be the sleepy sickness. The cause of the original 1916-1928 outbreak had never been determined in the intervening years, so a virologist named Professor John Oxford re-examined brains samples taken from victims of the original epidemic. Despite his advanced molecular probes, he found no evidence of viruses in the tissue.

As the young woman slowly recovered, Doctors Russell Dale and Andrew Church set to investigating the disease, and through the medical community they found twenty other patients with symptoms of encephalitis lethargica. After they analyzed the patients, they discovered a common thread which was also present in the historical cases: most patients complained of a sore throat before the disease struck. The men narrowed the common thread down to a particular strain of bacteria called diplococcus, known to cause sore throats. Though the evidence is insufficient to be certain, the findings of these researchers strongly suggests that the sleepy sickness epidemic was caused by the body's massive over-reaction to these bacteria. It seems that this excessive immune response caused the immune system to attack the nerve cells of the brain, resulting in significant damage. Further research has detected anti-brain antibodies present in those with the condition, further supporting the auto-immune theory.

Given the new evidence, some experts suggest that encephalitis lethargica may be much more common than we realize. It is likely that most cases are minor, and go undiagnosed. Oxford, Dale, and Church may very well have solved one of medicine's greatest mysteries, though some researchers still suspect that a virus is responsible for the disease. Research continues.

Note: A previous version of this article referred to the condition as "sleeping sickness," however current naming conventions prefer "sleepy sickness" for Encephalitis lethargica to differentiate it from African trypanosomiasis.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 23 July 2006. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

Article design by Alan Bellows.
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65 Comments
Robert
Posted 23 July 2006 at 05:46 pm

But why did the patients revived in 1969 by Levodopa fall back into their catatonic state after only a week or so?


cutterjohn
Posted 23 July 2006 at 05:55 pm

That movie Awakenings is one of the saddest movies i've ever seen..


cutterjohn
Posted 23 July 2006 at 05:59 pm

Robert said: "But why did the patients revived in 1969 by Levodopa fall back into their catatonic state after only a week or so?"

According to the movie, they developed a tolerance for it very rapidly, and the dosage had to be continually increased until it couldn't be raised anymore.


Asshe
Posted 23 July 2006 at 05:59 pm

Even though the human race has come so far in terms of knowledge and understanding of ourselves and our surroundings, somethimes it is scary when one realises how much we still don't know or can't explain.


just_dave
Posted 23 July 2006 at 07:41 pm

Can't say that I've ever heard of this variety of sleeping sickness. Guess it's different than the African variety, which is spread through the bite of a Tsetse fly. That one has been around a lot longer and is still a problem in much of Africa.


MJ Smith
Posted 23 July 2006 at 08:18 pm

I have a sore throat. Great. Freakin' great. :(


white_matter
Posted 23 July 2006 at 09:20 pm

Aside from the somewhat documented but generally unknown area of a coma, it doesn't seem like too bad away to go.

Well, maybe not, but if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Maybe this whole message is calus and unthoughtful.

Preparing to end transmission...

End Transmisssion.


white_matter
Posted 23 July 2006 at 09:31 pm

P.S. : I do not claim that my opinions are based on fact, hearsay, or any type of logic whatsoever. In fact, I contend that my comments never existed in the first place. To believe, become enraged or even read any of my nonexistant comments is to, in fact, prove that you do not exist as well. So, please, if all of you that exist in a thin mist of nothingness (nonexisting people) would spare me any of your criticism (since it all originates from my head in the first place) in order to free up the creative parts of my brain (from whence the criticism was derived) for more productive things, it would be appreciated.

P.P.S. : Oh, and the value of pi is exactly 3.


rp2
Posted 23 July 2006 at 11:47 pm

Whoa damn!


binnyva
Posted 24 July 2006 at 12:18 am

I have sleeping sickness...
From 11 PM to 6:30 AM ;-)

Binny V A


Lennes
Posted 24 July 2006 at 01:14 am

I wonder why women were particularily vunerable.


Vivendi
Posted 24 July 2006 at 01:48 am

DI!!

Over-reaction to the bacteria doesn't explain at all why there was a sudden burst in the number of affected patients (or like Lennes said, why women are more vunerable). And the scientists saying that diplococcus causes the disease doesn't make any sense to me, because (I thought..) diplococcus was a general term that covered several different bacteria. So are they saying that several different bacterium types could cause this sickness?

binnyva said: "I have sleeping sickness…

From 11 PM to 6:30 AM ;-)

Binny V A"

As you can see, I don't have sleeping sickness because it's almost 3am here and I'm still awake :P


ForestGrump
Posted 24 July 2006 at 04:53 am

Vivendi,
Probably a strain that would overinduce the immune system to attack. And then it died out after a while.

Kinda like how each year the flu is "different".

And as for my "sleeping sickness", its almost 5am here. Yea, I got issues.


ballaerina
Posted 24 July 2006 at 05:03 am

MJ Smith said: "I have a sore throat. Great. Freakin' great. :("

Uh oh, me too. I also tend to have random tremors where I lash out and whap someone (usually my coworkers). If you stop seeing posts from me, be worried.

This is an amazing article. If it's true that it's actually an overreaction to a strain of bacteria, it shows that sometimes our bodies are our worst enemies, which is fascinating but very scary.


Sylph-DS
Posted 24 July 2006 at 06:12 am

Not first

...
Sorry :(

Anyways, Great article.
Kinda scary though, if this was ever to break out again...


Melon Head
Posted 24 July 2006 at 07:12 am

Who knows what else these people had in common.

What makes this frightening is what we don't know about it; although, I see great potential for another DI conspiracy theory.
Block, Taxi, Wind, Parachute, Spider, Rice Bran, Donkey, Jerry Lewis, diplococcus (the blond bacterium)................They're all the same......right?


Brigs
Posted 24 July 2006 at 07:43 am

Lennes said: "I wonder why women were particularily vunerable."

Because women overreact to everything.


another viewpoint
Posted 24 July 2006 at 07:52 am

...shoot, and here I thought those folks were just looking for pinholes in their eyelids!

Then again to prevent widespread hysteria...and as a public service, we need to take a proactive approach regarding this type of human threat...please post the following at your places of employment...

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The management regrets that it has come to their attention that employees sleeping on the job are failing to lie down. This practice my stop, as it becomes impossible to distinguish between sleeping and natural movement of the staff. Any employee found sleeping in an upright position will be dropped from the payroll immediately.


beanaroo
Posted 24 July 2006 at 08:56 am

Sylph-DS said: "
Kinda scary though, if this was ever to break out again…"

Its less likely now. Remember that in the early 20's they didn't really have any good antibiotics. Penicillin wasn't fully discovered till 1928 and they didn't figure out how to mass produce it till the mid 40's. In our antibiotic happy society right now I am sure there is some drug that can knock this thing on its ass. That might even be why it is not more wide spread. People go to their doctor for a sore throat and are usually give a broad spectrum antibiotic, whether they need it or not.


ChickenHead
Posted 24 July 2006 at 10:12 am

beanaroo said: "Its less likely now. Remember that in the early 20's they didn't really have any good antibiotics. Penicillin wasn't fully discovered till 1928 and they didn't figure out how to mass produce it till the mid 40's. In our antibiotic happy society right now I am sure there is some drug that can knock this thing on its ass. That might even be why it is not more wide spread. People go to their doctor for a sore throat and are usually give a broad spectrum antibiotic, whether they need it or not."

On the contrary - the very situation you describe is a problem the medical community is strugling with right now. Antibiotics are being *overused*. It creates a situation that ends up accelerating the mutation of bacteria into more virulent forms. Basically, we're setting the stage for our own downfall.

Inset silly Wikipedia link in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

Antibiotic Resistance


AGG
Posted 24 July 2006 at 11:22 am

cutterjohn said: "According to the movie, they developed a tolerance for it very rapidly, and the dosage had to be continually increased until it couldn't be raised anymore."

While I haven't seen the movie, I'd think that if the body's antibodies attacked neurotissue in the brain, then even if they were revived from their catatonic state, their brain function wouldn't be able to sustain them there. I'm amazed that they could regain consciousness for a short time in the first place.


Drakvil
Posted 24 July 2006 at 04:33 pm

AGG said: "While I haven't seen the movie, I'd think that if the body's antibodies attacked neurotissue in the brain, then even if they were revived from their catatonic state, their brain function wouldn't be able to sustain them there. I'm amazed that they could regain consciousness for a short time in the first place."

The theory that the movie "Awakenings" had Sacks put forth is that they were suffering from tremors speeded up to the point where muscle action did not occur because the signals canceled each other out.

There are several diseases where the immune system is thought to be attacking the nervous system, the one I am most familiar with is Multiple Sclerosis (my wife has it). I read an article last year where they were investigating a possible treatment for MS where they isolate the antibodies that are attacking the nerves and marking them, then reinjecting them into the patient. The immune system sees these marked antibodies as invaders and produces antibodies to wipe them out... I like that approach: use the immune system to counteract a problem with the immune system. I don't think the immune system will be able to mutate faster than the immune system can keep up with it.

Interesting how so many things these days are being linked to problems with the immune system... sleeping sickness, MS, and people are hypothesizing that asthma is the immune system freaking out because the overuse of antibiotics and antimicrobial cleaners are not giving it enough to do... with no everpresent enemies to work against, it starts seeing friendlies as targets. (please, don't respond to this with a political take-off, I'm begging you.)


whaaat
Posted 24 July 2006 at 10:39 pm

This may be bad but...

That girl in the picture is a cutie...we could get the sleeping sickness together ;-)


schuylercat
Posted 25 July 2006 at 09:24 am

Hey whaaat: yes, that was bad. She is cute, though.

Very DI. Nothing more to say. Thanks, Alan.

ZzzZzZZZzzzzZZzZz...


Stead311
Posted 25 July 2006 at 12:05 pm

So everytime you have a sore throat; you have a minor case of this disease? Yet only if it develops then it becomes this "sleeping sickness?"


frenchsnake
Posted 25 July 2006 at 04:46 pm

Ugh. Another thing to be paranoid about. Very interesting, though.


Floj
Posted 25 July 2006 at 10:58 pm

Interesting..... I read of a protein that our brains produce that allow us to learn, by creating new connections in the nerves. It is said to be a possible cure for alsiemers if they can supplement the protien to the brain. It would help reconstruct worn out connections, which allow the brain to retain it's function. They're supposed to begin clinical testes in 2010. The article I read is in the July issue of Pop Sci if y'all are interested. Perhaps, the same idea could be applied to the comatose patients to help repair brain damage. Of course pie could cure it much better. mmhmm


Kuz_Sam
Posted 26 July 2006 at 04:18 am

Floj said: "Interesting….. I read of a protein that our brains produce that allow us to learn, by creating new connections in the nerves. It is said to be a possible cure for alsiemers if they can supplement the protien to the brain. It would help reconstruct worn out connections, which allow the brain to retain it's function. They're supposed to begin clinical testes in 2010. The article I read is in the July issue of Pop Sci if y'all are interested. Perhaps, the same idea could be applied to the comatose patients to help repair brain damage. Of course pie could cure it much better. mmhmm"

lol floj...you said clinical testes...HAHAHA...

you are only young once; you can be immature forever :-)


HGirl
Posted 26 July 2006 at 06:23 am

I can do with a bit of the sleeping sickness... but without all te effects.


sulkykid
Posted 26 July 2006 at 07:12 am

Stead311 said: "So everytime you have a sore throat; you have a minor case of this disease? Yet only if it develops then it becomes this "sleeping sickness?""

There are different kinds of sore throats, but you may have other worries--I have heard that strep throat infections are suspected of causing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in children. Something along the lines of it affecting development of a certain area of the brain. The Sleeping Sickness Disorder affects females more than males, but the strep-induced OCD seems to affect males more often. (Although OCD generally affects more women than men.)


lavonne
Posted 26 July 2006 at 09:00 am

Fascinating. My aunt Genevieve had sleeping sickness from the time she was 12 until she died at age 37. I remember being led into her bedroom to meet her when I was three, shortly before she died. I thought she was Jesus.


Cannonstar
Posted 26 July 2006 at 09:23 am

I read something about this in the beginnings of The Sandman (the graphic novels by Neil Gaiman). I never realized that this actually happened.

I gotta read through The Sandman again.


Amazing Squibbon
Posted 26 July 2006 at 10:05 am

Yeah Cannonstar, I thought of the exact same thing when I read this article! In the first issue of Sandman, which begins in the closing days of World War I, Morpheous (the sandman) gets captured by a magician and imprisoned in a magical bubble. With the king of sleep incapacitated, various people around the world are stricken by a condition that is pretty much identical to what this DI article describes. I never knew that it had a historical basis, very interesting!


Sandra Thurston
Posted 26 July 2006 at 10:43 am

In 1987, my little sister, only 6 then and my brother, 12, had the same symptoms among other 3 others kids from our street, all at the same week. Because of the weird arms moviments , all of them were diagnosed with epilepsy. Although, my sister was off the meds after a year, my brother got severe brain damage and has never been healthy ever since. I always thought that was really weird since there were 5 cases and they all played together and besides, epilepsy is not contageous. Now, I'm spooked!

http://sandragenteboa.spaces.msn.com/


Drakvil
Posted 26 July 2006 at 12:06 pm

Sandra Thurston said: "In 1987, ... , all of them were diagnosed with epilepsy. Although, my sister was off the meds after a year, my brother got severe brain damage and has never been healthy ever since. I always thought that was really weird since there were 5 cases and they all played together and besides, epilepsy is not contageous. Now, I'm spooked!"

Epilepsy itself isn't contagious, but there are multiple causes for it, not all of which have been defined completely. If your siblings and their friends contracted a disease that could possibly affect their brain that could be an explanation - enchephalitis and scarlet fever are good suspects. You may have had the same disease but escaped the ill effects on the brain. I contracted epilepsy through a severe head injury (a car ran over me - I landed 70 feet from where I was struck), and I once worked with someone who was an epileptic following surgery to remove a brain tumor. I have a cousin who happens to have the same type of seizures that I had (partial complex), where there is little or no change in physical movement - just a change in the level of conciousness (very difficult to diagnose because looking like you are not paying attention or just spacing out for 10-30 seconds is fairly common behavior.) She never had any injury to bring it on, and as far as I know hers is a result of one of the unknown causes.

I have also heard of (I really am hoping I have the phrasing right on this) "Juvenile Onset Epilepsy" which is kind of mysterious because it has a tendency to just disappear forever after a few years. With mine, I actually had to have a large chunk of my brain removed, both to control (end) the epilepsy and remove tissue that was killed during seizures.


JPF
Posted 26 July 2006 at 05:04 pm

I remember as a child of 6 or 7 being tented in bed in mosquito netting because a mosquito bite might lead to "Sleeping Sickness". This was in the 1940s, I was terrified of being bitten by a mosquito - I was told if bitten, I would never awaken.

Probably not the same desease as described in this article but I still think about it when I hear a mosquito buzzing.


noway
Posted 27 July 2006 at 10:58 am

Brigs said: "Because women overreact to everything."

HAH! First thought I had too!


needles
Posted 27 July 2006 at 12:21 pm

I saw this thing in the newspaper about a woman who went into a coma in 1980 and came out of it in 2001. She knew what a CD was.


callcenterrefugee
Posted 28 July 2006 at 03:03 am

I was in a coma from 9/3/01 till 4/5/02

I had the bright idea to take a ride on my moped with out a helmet, didnt notice a bike ramp @ the end of the hill (did i mention i forgot to wear my glasses as well ~_~) and pulled an evil kenevil and went apx 20 feet in the air, landed and fractured my skull, broke my right arm in 3 places both my legs and broke my collar bone.

When I woke up my best friend Joe was in the room (wonderful guy he visited me every chance he got) and he told me i had been in a coma for 7 months, i thought he was shitting me but (he had rung for the nurses) i asked a nurse and she said it was true, and let me tell you, it is an absolute mind **** to wake up and find out you pulled a RWV, i have a lot of sympathy towards these people, its devistating to find out you lost a huge portion of your life, not to mention i have lost the fun of napping, i hate going to sleep now, you always have the thought that it might just happen again. you might go to sleep and wake up and be 10-20 years older.

and it would eb even worse for the ones that never woke up at all, any hoo good read, im off to read some more


lavonne
Posted 28 July 2006 at 12:22 pm

Brigs said: "Because women overreact to everything."

noway said: "HAH! First thought I had too!"

Excuse me for overreacting, but this kinda pissed me off.


frenchsnake
Posted 28 July 2006 at 01:05 pm

lavonne said: "Excuse me for overreacting, but this kinda pissed me off."

I agree. I think this kind of thing can be kept to yourself.


Spike
Posted 28 July 2006 at 06:53 pm

Brigs said: "Because women overreact to everything."

Briggs, no pie for you or your friend, noway! Are you two trying to start something?


debbiebf
Posted 29 July 2006 at 10:43 am

Brigs said: "Because women overreact to everything."

I thought that was kind of funny. But there could be other reasons:

"My husband had it, but he was in his chair watching football and no one noticed for 20 years."

"Women tend to keep pushing themselves when they get sick, whereas men tend to whine and go to bed and get over it. Apparently this one does better if you don't let it get you down."

"Maybe beer kills the sore throat germs."

"Women had larger families and less time saving conveniences. Maybe after actually sleeping a full night without interruptions, they just didn't WANT to wake up!"


Floj
Posted 29 July 2006 at 06:27 pm

Kuz_Sam said: "lol floj…you said clinical testes…HAHAHA…


you are only young once; you can be immature forever :-)"

Oops... but funny. No pie for me this time... ok, mabey just one slice.


Random5
Posted 30 July 2006 at 08:57 pm

lavonne said: "Excuse me for overreacting, but this kinda pissed me off."

frenchsnake said: "I agree. I think this kind of thing can be kept to yourself."

Come on now, it was a fairly good one liner, and jokes about the opposite sex are a fact of life. Maybe you two are overreacting just a little bit?


frenchsnake
Posted 01 August 2006 at 12:45 pm

No, I am obviously not furious. A string of insults and expletives would be *overreacting*. Ha ha.


Floj
Posted 02 August 2006 at 09:28 pm

Floj said: "Oops… but funny. No pie for me this time… ok, mabey just one slice."

Ahh! I keep mispelling words!


Lillian
Posted 17 September 2006 at 03:08 pm

Oh shit I have a Sore Throat and headache and I have been so tired I can not stay awake and whe nI try to I just passout from being to tired and I feel weak all the time and I dropped the T.V. today when I trid to move it and Iafter that I just had to lay down.And got up and just could not get out of bed because I was so weak and tired and my fever was high and I could not eat anything etheir.Now im paranoid.


7HS
Posted 30 September 2006 at 11:01 am

AGG said: "While I haven't seen the movie, I'd think that if the body's antibodies attacked neurotissue in the brain, then even if they were revived from their catatonic state, their brain function wouldn't be able to sustain them there. I'm amazed that they could regain consciousness for a short time in the first place."

Kind of late to clarify this now, but this immune reaction doesn't attack *all* neurotissue- only a very specific band of neurons in the midbrains called the 'substantia nigra'. This area reacts to the neurotransmitter dopamine to mediate motor functions and (more importantly in postencephalitic Parkinsonism) the brain's stimulus reward system. Relatively minor damage to the substantia nigra, as in normal Parkinson's disease, causes characteristic motor symptoms such as the inability to initiate movements and distortions of the time sense. With major damage, the brain ceases to react to outside stimuli and literally shuts down, while still being conscious- a state known as 'akinetic mutism.'

Incidentally, from my recollection of 'Awakenings', most postencephalitic patients treated with L-DOPA didn't exactly "slip back into a catatonic state within days or weeks"; rather, they began to exhibit life-threatening side effects (usually respiratory crises- also extreme mania, psychosis, and severe, constant ticcing sometimes reminiscent of grand mal seizures) and were removed from the medication by Sacks. These side effects are thought to be caused by indiscriminant activation of dopamine receptors in other portions of the brain, and are similar to the effects of amphetamine psychosis (amphetamines also increase dopamine levels in the brain.)


Tink
Posted 30 October 2006 at 11:43 pm

[/Quote]Cases of encephalitis lethargica since the original epidemic have been scarce, but in 1993 a twenty-three year old woman was hospitalized after suffering fever, tremors, hallucinations, and strange arm movements.[/endQuote]

I remember seeing a news show like 20/20, 48 hours, or Dateline several years ago about a woman like this. At the time they had no answers as to what kept her asleep all the time. Her mom had to awaken her to eat ,else she would have literaly starved to death in bed! Hum, DI!


Cathryn
Posted 31 December 2006 at 12:31 am

lavonne said: "Excuse me for overreacting, but this kinda pissed me off."

me too. how unsensitive.


Cathryn
Posted 31 December 2006 at 12:32 am

noway said: "HAH! First thought I had too!"

you guys are so wrong.


Cathryn
Posted 31 December 2006 at 12:34 am

Random5 said: "Come on now, it was a fairly good one liner, and jokes about the opposite sex are a fact of life. Maybe you two are overreacting just a little bit?"

i dont think any of them are.


Tapion
Posted 07 January 2008 at 02:55 am

I watched a show about how the 1918 Flu Pandemic and Encephalitis lethargica may be connected. It said the Encephalitis lethargica struck those that had the Spanish Flu but survived it. A huge Quarentine effort was put into effect in Sombolia and Encephalitis lethargica never showed up in that area but everywhere else it did. Also, it said the the Spanish Flu Pandemic rose hell on the same day in four different parts of the globe and vanished just as quick everywhere on the same day (in a different year of course). Pretty scary, almost seems like something out of this world. The reason they say Encephalitis lethargica is connected to the 1918 flu is because through time the virus would have made it's way to the brain damaging the movement part of the brain, which explains why it struck later in time after the 1918 pandemic. Which makes some since. If thats true than think of what would happen if the H5N1 (Avian Flu) Struck. Imagine what hell on earth would happen after it dissapears, with millions dead, then you get a second type of Encephalitis lethargica. One thats probably much worse. Also, add on the Encephalitis lethargica deaths to the total deaths of the 1918 pandemic. The new model says the the flu alone (not including Encephalitis lethargica) killed some 50-100 million people. Just as much as the black plauge. Aids has killed just as many people in 25 years as the Spanish Flu did in 25 weeks. A huge number.
There's nothing we can do if H5N1 Strikes. You have to get the virus first then turn it into a vacine which takes some 2-3 months if I remember correctly, 2-3 months is time we don't have. We think were strong, at the top of the food chain (above animals, with technology) and yet we are wiped out and destroyed by something only microscopes can see. I wonder what we'd do if the flu got out and took over major cities, quarentine the entire planet. It's waiting for the right time to strike, when humans are at their peak, secretly plotting it's revenge, like an assassin. One we can't see untill it's too late. Seems like some demonic enemy. One infection is all it takes, once it reaches schools, colleges, big cities, all hell breaks loose, by time we get a vacine it's too late, how will we distribute it, doctors and nurses first, older ones, those who need it most, riots and fights will break out, if it strikes armed forces, one by one they'll fall, where will we put the bodies. We'll be out of room, more deaths than the Spanish Flu and Black Death will be more than likely; considering how may humans live on this planet, A second type of Encephalitis lethargica stirkes those that survive. It's going to be one hell of party when it strikes. I feel bad for those that get killed by it, I hope i'm one of them, I won't have to live the aftermath. What if your patient 0, the one responsible for the millions of deaths, you passed it on to them, how would you feel. Knowing that your the one who killed millions of inocent lives. Well, it's only a matter of time untill it attacks, getting it's revenge on the survivors, we had a large population in 1918, many died, those that survived-- repopulated and gave birth to more raising the number of lives. Ever noticed how when the number of humans is very large, disaster strikes; the black plauge killed 3/4 of Europe, 1918 pandemic killed just as may lives. The population is raising, when it's at it's peak the bar graph will drop. An ongoing patter, never ends untill all humans are dead. Sad thing is, if your within the ages of 0-40 and 65+ you'll be the first to go, those than are 16+ with active immune systems will most likely drown in your own blood. If you believe in god, some of us think why he does such things, after all he chooses who lives and dies and how. But then again he has his reasons. Look on bright side, the 1918 flu led to many great advances in technology and research.


SammieRockes
Posted 13 February 2008 at 08:21 am

Where exactly did this epidemic take place? Was it in Spain? Or the US? I know there is one in Africa but which one is this!!!!!


Johh
Posted 16 April 2008 at 07:54 pm

SammieRockes said: "Where exactly did this epidemic take place? Was it in Spain? Or the US? I know there is one in Africa but which one is this!!!!!"

You might want to read the first sentence of the article, Sammie.


Mirage_GSM
Posted 04 August 2008 at 06:11 am

@Tapion:
Way to go taking an extreme worst-case szenario and taking it to this...
Maybe your look on life is not quite as jolly as it ought to be?
Seriously, if you were serious about what you wrote, you should seek help. A friend to talk to or if that doesn't help a professional.


BenKinsey
Posted 16 September 2008 at 06:28 am

Cathryn said: "i dont think any of them are."

Cathryn said: "you guys are so wrong."

Cathryn said: "me too. how unsensitive."

Three comments=an overreaction haha lightn up woman then go make me dinner...just playin

Tapion said: "What if your patient 0, the one responsible for the millions of deaths, you passed it on to them, how would you feel. Knowing that your the one who killed millions of inocent lives."
Luckily you'd be dead already so you wouldn't know the devastation you caused.


Jocelyn
Posted 13 January 2009 at 11:34 am

I noticed that there haven't been many entries for a while, but I'm hoping that somebody may read this and help. I was diagnosed with encephalitis lethargica when I was 5 in 1978. My parents were told to start making arrangements for my funeral. I made it through, however I want to know if anybody knows of the different prognosis for this disease.


Radiatidon
Posted 13 January 2009 at 12:30 pm

Jocelyn said: "I noticed that there haven't been many entries for a while, but I'm hoping that somebody may read this and help. I was diagnosed with encephalitis lethargica when I was 5 in 1978. My parents were told to start making arrangements for my funeral. I made it through, however I want to know if anybody knows of the different prognosis for this disease."

I’m not sure what you wish to know. The disease you suffered from as a child was basically swelling of your brain due to an infection from a virus or bacterium. Chances were that you had the Chicken Pox or a cold sore (herpes simplex) and the virus transverse the blood brain barrier infecting the cerebral tissue. This will cause swelling of the brain tissue within the tight confines of the skull.

At this point the brain’s functions are impaired causing a variety of symptoms. The more common ones due to a minor infection would be fever, loss of energy, little or no appetite, and a general overall sick feeling.

In more sever cases you have high fever, extreme sensitivity to light, a form of motion sickness causing nausea & vomiting, extremely painful headaches, stiff neck, general confusion & forgetfulness, seizures, and lethargic (sleepiness and/or unconsciousness).

Not something to take mildly, the infected should be monitored. Understand that the disease itself is not contagious, only the virus or bacterium that caused it is. Plus you can only suffer the symptoms if the virus or bacterium is able to cross your brain blood barrier and infect the brain tissue, and that is rare.

Thus you could contract the disease the caused the Encephalitis in sick individual, but it is very doubtful that it will cause you to suffer Encephalitis.

Anyway the longer the brain is swelled, and the amount of swelling is causing damage to the sensitive tissues. Also a high fever is literally cooking the brain tissue. Both are capable of creating debilitating brain damage.

A person who survives a sever case could have speech problems, muscle coordination loss, blindness or decreased vision, learning disabilities, seizures, etc.

If you are suffering from some aftereffect, the only person who might be able to help with that would be a neurologist. Then again it depends of the type of brain damage and the severity.

The Don.


pikespeakdave
Posted 16 February 2009 at 08:57 pm

I have watched Awakenings a few different times, it is one of my favorites, because it is filled with so much detail.

I have been living with YOPD for 13 years, and the medicine the patients received in the clinic was L-dopa, a precuror to sinement that is considered a gold standard of PD treatment for many patients with this chronic condition. And the simarilities to the reaction of the patients is strikingly similiar. If you take to much Sinement (Carbidopa/Levodopa) you experience erratic body movements, and issue of mania and other side effects.

But, Flu Epidemic and sleeping Sickness followed right WWI, where many chemical agents were used as weopans in large nnumbers. And PD has a similiar distinction that it first discovered at the beginng of the Industrial age in 1817 by a london doctor named James Parkinsons who wrote an essay called Shaking Palsy.

In Baltimore and in Northern California a few men had developed a new derivative of heroin which caused instant paralys after using this drug. The Clinical drug is now called MPTP, which is now used to study ways to develop treatments for PD using animals to try new treatments.

Consudering PD is thought to be caused by the loss of the chemical Dopamine in the brain,

But. the movie starts out with some interresting clues about how this disease started in a young boy, He is described by jis mother as an avid reader and was a good student, but the mother and one of his teachers noticed that is writing became harder to read because of his writing necame smaller in print, and eventually succumbed to one morning his mother was unable to wake him. He was sent to hospital where he spent in a comatose state for many years.

The Doctor, Oliver Sacks was sent to this hospital that had many patients that suffered from this condition, and one morning he noticed one lady who could barely move caught her glasses in her hands before they hit the floor. So in some ways the brain is able to function, but the body is frozen in place.

The Young Man is given the first trial of L-dopa, and after increasing the dose to a sufficient level, he awakens and returns to almost normal state, but he still acts as a young teenager although he is in his late 40's or early 50's. They wventually get approval from the medical board to try to awaken the rest of these patients, Such a wild scene, one moment tou have many patients unable to move, and slowly the place is pure bedlam. All these patients think it is the year they were first struck with this condition, although in most cases many years has been lost.

Examples of touch, music, changing environment like the floor pattern, and dancing and other therapies made as much difference to these people's lives as well as the medicine.

But, more medicine was needed to keep these patients active, which caused many sad side effect that were in physical, and physcological in nature, and the young man was returned to comatose state, just like the rest of them.

The movie ends, but because of this doctor's observations, he made the biggest advance in PD treatment that in the field of medical field has not been repeated since then.

Do I think another repeat of sleeping sickness or an epidemic of increased cases of PD in the future, YES.

Just look what Crystal Meth does, or why in America, the fastest growing group of PD patients in America are the migrant workers that work in the fields of California picking our produce, And China isn't exactly have a stellar image on environmental issues. And the battlefield of Iraq may be another place.

But, I hope I am wrong, but Bush hasn't been very good advocate for medical research and he sure has no conscience on social issues either.

Davud W Walker


ily_lisy
Posted 28 November 2010 at 04:45 pm

I hope someone responds to this....but what has happened to the people treated with the L-Dopa since 1969?


Ethel
Posted 02 June 2014 at 10:30 am

My mother was diagnosed with what they called at that time Sleeping Sickness.
She was sleeping and in a coma state. She was just a young girl about 11 in Springfield, Mass. It was during the time when you could not get whiskey which was used for medicinal purposes. The doctor said if he only had some whiskey he could save many lives, including my mothers. My grandmother had stashed some away and my grandfather gave it to the doctor who gave my mother some in an eye dropper and the rest to help anyone that needed it.
The next day my mother sat up spitting up blood and the doctor said it was a good sign and she continued to get better. She was left with some brain damage but lived a full life and raised four children by herself. She has passed on but lived to be 90 years old.


Susan Simkin
Posted 07 November 2014 at 10:05 pm

I have an ASD 10 year old son, who is falling asleep on the job. He is now going to bed at 7 each night but not waking until 12 or 1 the next afternoon. He is only doing 1 to 2 hour's of school a day as he fall's asleep. He say's sometime's he is aware of everything going on around him but can't move or speak. Other time's he wakes up and know's nothing since he got ready for bed the night before. I'm being told by a doctor that he's having a mental brake-down. Is this true or is it something else?? Really love a reply...


Beni
Posted 14 May 2015 at 08:08 am

another scary thing about this disease is that while sufferers are trapped in their catatonic states, (unlike in a coma) they are completely aware of it. they are human statues trapped in their own bodies.

also, while in the catatonic state, they suffer psychosis. seeing horrible hallucinations, as if they were in a nightmare. scientist believe that this is because, like in Normal sleep, if pressure is put on the body, the brain will think that the body is trapped or in danger, and will generate a horrifying image to wake us up.

unfortunately for the victims of sleepy sickness (gosh thats a horrible name)they cannot wake up. they are condemned to age while trapped in that nightmarish state


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