What Links Swine With Car Accidents?

If reports in Sweden and Malaysia are to be collated, one answer could be narcolepsy. How?

First, Sweden’s Local News in English (www.thelocal.se) published in February 19 disturbing reports of increase in narcolepsy cases after a massive vaccination campaign against swine flu using the vaccine Pandemrix. The southern region of Skåne is most hard struck apparently, with 33 cases of narcolepsy reported. People affected by the sleep illness came out of the open especially after victims received compensation for the first time in October last year, as reported by the site. Now, local victims are on a new compensation bid says the site on February 13.

The article quoted one sufferer from the region, 16 year-old Belinda T. Marazanye, who described her symptoms to the national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD). She said: "I experience strange dreams, I've lost my appetite. It's hard to sleep at night and you get these hallucinations."

Sixty percent of Sweden's population was vaccinated with Pandemrix when swine flu broke out in 2009. According to SvD, six lives were saved by the vaccine. Nationally, a total of 177 persons have now been reported to have contracted narcolepsy following the vaccination.

Then, halfway around the globe Malaysia’s New Straits Time mentioned narcolepsy in its February 28 editorial. Talk about traffic! Well, literally. The site commented on Malaysia’s new regulations on issuing driver’s licenses. The regulations are based on a recent survey by Malaysia’s Health Ministry, where 44.3 per cent of bus drivers were found to have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The number could be higher had it taken narcolepsy in the account, said Sleep Disorder Society Malaysia president Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari.

What surprises Dr. Zahari is that unlike OSA, there is no cure for narcolepsy, although symptoms can be treated with medication. Narcolepsy is a neurological disease which strikes against the brain's regulation of sleep. A sufferer may be struck by sudden attacks of sleep, often several times per day. Other symptoms include general tiredness and some loss of motor control. The new Malaysian regulation allows OSA sufferers to obtain licenses after being cleared by a sleep doctor.

"I hope that one day God will help all of those who got this disease after the shot," said Belinda, quoted earlier, to SvD.