Scientists and doctors have spent the past 12 years trying to get ahead of a disease that has thus far remained unidentified, while continuing to make sick and even kill a number of people in Central America.
In many cases, the mysterious illness causes chronic kidney disease. Many of those afflicted are sugar cane workers or manual labor workers along the Pacific coast of Central America.
In Nicaragua and El Salvador alone, wince 2000, more than 24,000 people have been killed by the illness. In Nicaragua, more than 1 in 4 men show symptoms of the mysterious sickness.
Those afflicted report cramps, nausea, headaches, and say that by the time they are “diagnosed” it is too late.
It was hypothesized that agricultural chemicals were to blame for the illness, though a number of studies have begun dispelling that theory.
Scientists say that the nature of the work done by those with the illness is likely where the cause rests. For hours everyday, these workers are in rough climates and likely dehydrated while they push themselves to get as much work as possible done before the end of the day.
After years of such routines, the bodies of the workers are left worn out and damaged, likely causing dehydration, which can ultimately lead to chronic kidney disease.
However, since work of this nature is not novel to Central America, researchers have not ruled out other causes, once again leaving more questions than answers.
So far, cases of the illness have been recorded as far north as Mexico and as far south as Panama.