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Skåne hardest hit by 'swine flu' narcolepsy

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Skåne hardest hit by 'swine flu' narcolepsy
09:55 CET+01:00
Thirty-three cases of narcolepsy have been reported in Skåne after Sweden's massive vaccination campaign against swine flu in 2009. The southern region has been unusually hard struck by the vaccine Pandemrix's side effects.

Relative to population size, far more narcolepsy sufferers have been discovered in Skåne than northern Norrland, for instance, regional newspaper Skånskan reported.

Fewer than five cases of narcolepsy have been reported north of central region Dalarna.

A study, conducted by the Swedish Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket) and Skåne region's Centre for Communicable Disease Control (Smittskydd Skåne), is now underway to find out what lies behind the regional differences.

"For now, all we can do is speculate about the reasons. But it's already clear that we have more cases of narcolepsy here in Skåne than in other parts of the country," said epidemiologist Håkan Ringberg, from the Centre for Communicable Disease Control, to Skånskan.

One sufferer from the region is 16 year-old Belinda T. Marazanye, who described her symptoms to national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD):

"I experience strange dreams, I've lost my appetite. It's hard to sleep at night and you get these hallucinations."

60 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.

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.

There is no cure for the disease, although symptoms can be treated with medication.

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

"My wish is that scientists can find medicine that helps cure narcolepsy," she continued.

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