Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Weird: Sleeping Sickness

Today is the last of our Halloween themed Wednesday Weirds. Today, we're talking about the Sleeping Sickness.

So let's say your SO comes down with what you assume is a bad cold. But after getting worse over the next few days, they suddenly freeze like a statue. They lie there, motionless, in a hospital bed. Then, finally, they wake up. Which would be a cause of celebration!

But, it gets worse.

They start to act completely different -- they're emotionless and distant, which makes you think of this delightful film:

THEN! (because so far, it's just not bad enough) they start gouging at their eyes and/or violently, sexually assaulting people.
That, right there, folks, is a real disease that first cropped up in the early 20th century. It's called encephalitis lethargica, or the sleeping sickness, and it struck as an epidemic just after the Spanish flu died down.

And, nobody has any idea where it came from or where it went.

It begins with a sore throat right before it escalates into hallucinations and madness before the body ultimately locks up. While sufferers appeared to be asleep, they were actually fully conscious but unable to move. Many died during this stage.
Survivors of the sleeping disease suffered behavioral problems for the rest of their lives, becoming excessively violent and -- regardless of gender -- kind of rapey. They also became emotionally indifferent, unable to recognize, for example, the beauty of art. They became completely different people.

Ten years after the epidemic, new cases suddenly stopped appearing.

Today, doctors still don't know what the deal was, though clearly it had to do with the brain. But whether it was a bacteria, or a virus, no one really knows.

Currently, it still occasionally shows up. So while the world is worried about Ebola, sometimes there are even scarier things that can strike when you least expect it.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is terrifying. And we thought dementia was bad.

mshatch said...

Wow. That's horrifying.

Leandra Wallace said...

I had no idea this was a real thing! And thanks, next time I get a sore throat, I'm going to be terrified, lol! ;)

Mia Hayson said...

You know the saddest part isn't the "sleeping" bit which is actually more of a paralysis -- it's that a neurologist tried to cure some people of it and for a while what he gave them worked but eventually it stopped working altogether and they fell back into their catatonic state. :( There is no known cure. A great sadness.


dolorah said...

Sounds like Invasion of the Body Snatchers all right.

Rena said...

Holy Mother of Marvel, that's a horrifying disease!

Anonymous said...

Real life zombies. Creepy. and I can't imagine coming down with this--or knowing someone who did, whose life would never be the same after recovering, if they did. I feel like that's a disease I'd rather see someone die from, and that's a terrible thing to think.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Yes, but Ebola is pretty terrifying.

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