It started in the spring of 2010. A 61-year-old in the Kazakh village of Krasnagorsk, collapsed. She slept for 4 days and remembered nothing when she awoke. Since that first case, waves of residents have experienced the same scenario and received the same diagnosis: abnormal brain function of no known cause.
The symptoms, in varying degrees, affected young and old; men and women. Typically, most victims became dizzy, toppled over and slept for days. Some thrashed about. Some could be awakened and spoken to, only to fall back asleep.
Could the illness be traced to a shuttered uranium mine? Was it an unknown virus? Mass hysteria? Sarah A. Topol’s riveting, well-reported story in Buzzfeed chronicles the attempts to solve a medical mystery.