World’s Most Dangerous Disease Known As ‘Laughing Death’ Has A Fatality Rate Of Almost 100%

Brain scan
Credit: Alamy

The world’s most dangerous disease has a fatality rate of almost 100% – which is something you don’t hear often nowadays. 

There are tons of diseases across the globe that have an impact on millions each and every day.

Although the fatality rate may have decreased for a lot of these, there is one known as the ‘laughing death’ which remains extremely deadly.

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Kuru is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that was first discovered in the 1950s from the cannibal tribes of Papa New Guinea.

In the language of the Fore tribe, ‘Kuru’ has two meanings: ‘trembling’ and ‘deterioration’.

As per MediGoo, the disease is caused by abnormally folded prion proteins and its main symptoms include loss of coordination and tremors.

It was given the name ‘laughing death’ as some of its victims were noticed to have a peculiar smile, while others had random and compulsive laughing.

People were becoming infected with the disease due to cannibalism being performed for funeral rituals. The Fore people believed they would gain intellect and other dignitaries from the person who had passed away.

Brain scan
Kuru is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that was first discovered in the 1950s from the cannibal tribes of Papa New Guinea. Credit: Alamy

Typically, this ritual was conducted by women and children and that’s why the disorder was found more so in them.

Men usually indulged in the muscles instead.

People could also become infected with the disease if they came into contact with someone with Kuru who had an open wound, as per Healthline.

Although the practice of eating brains stopped in the 1960s, cases of Kuru continued to pop up years later, with people dying from the disease.

The incubation period for this disorder can be incredibly long, it can take a few years or even a few decades.

However, once the symptoms do occur, the individual usually only has a year or two before their untimely death.

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Kuru proceeds in three stages, with the first being characterised by headaches and joint pain. This is followed by the individual being unable to walk, with tremors and involuntary jerks starting to occur.

In the final stage, a person is unable to speak and they will get dementia. Around this time, the individual will have difficulty eating and swallowing.

The disease doesn’t have a known cure and it is fatal, usually lasting around one year.

From 2010 onwards, zero deaths from Kuru disease have been reported – information on the last person to pass from the disorder also remains sketchy.

While some reports suggest the last person to die from Kuru was in 2005, others report that it was in 2009.

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Written by Aimee Walker

Aimee is a senior content editor at IGV who specialises in finding the best original stories, trending topics and entertainment news. She graduated from Birmingham City University with a degree in Media and Communications.