By Anupum Pant
Encephalitis Lethargica, or sleepy sickness, is probably the biggest medical mystery of all times. In the 1920s a devastating illness struck throughout the world, and effected about a million people leaving them all like statues – motionless and speechless. It’s estimated that about a million people died and a million others were affected, lying like statues in different hospitals around the world.
The cause of this disease wasn’t known. Probably because science and technology hadn’t progressed as much as it has today. But then in the year 1993 it reappeared. However, it was just this one case where an illness similar to the 1920s disease was seen.
Becky Howells, a 23 years old woman, suddenlly had high fever, started shaking and hallucinating. No doctor could figure what had happened to her. One thing was sure, her brain was affected. No one knew how. Later it was concluded that she was suffering from Encephalitis Lethargica.
Doctors think that the disease, in a widespread manner, could strike again and they’ll be able to do absolutely nothing about it. Becky’s case was just as mysterious to them as it was several decades ago.
Gradually several such cases were identified. At least it didn’t affect millions this time.
One thing was common among all of the patients. All of them started off with a simple sore throat – caused by a simple streptococcus bacteria. Researchers have a hypothesis that the immune system of these people reacted to this bacteria due to some unknown reason and attacked the brain cells.