5 Rare Diseases You Don’t Want To Catch

The more you know.

Spencer Hicksby Spencer Hicks
Photo: Frinkiac

No one wants to catch a rare disease. The title of this article might as well be “5 Bullets You Don’t Want To Be Shot With.” But even living in a world with amazing medical science, there are lots of diseases that, if contracted, leave little hope for survival. But there is hope. Every generation brings new cures and treatments for disease. Hopefully, one day, this post will be as quaint as polio (which also doesn’t have a cure).

Note: We’ll use pop culture reference photos to soften the blow of these horrible diseases. This is not to make light, but merely because actually contracting any of them is terrible enough.

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5 Rare Diseases You Don’t Want To Catch

1.) Rabies

rare diseases

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

This viral disease is truly horrifying. You can catch it from a laughably long list of animals. It can lie dormant for a long time, too. And it’s symptoms are like that of the flu. If you are ever bitten by an animal (but especially a bat), get treatment immediately. It will take between a week and a month of getting shots and cost a lot of money, but the alternative is death. Once you start showing symptoms of rabies, there is nothing medical science can do.

What are those symptoms, you ask? Well, it’s almost exactly like the flu: fever, sore throat, restlessness, aches. Then you start with the convulsions and hydrophobia. Your body will not allow you to drink water. It’s insane. After all that, you die. Here is a video of a guy with rabies describing it as he’s dying.

NOTE: At the end of the video, they do an autopsy of his brain. If you’re squeamish, maybe don’t watch the end. Also, if I’m ever diagnosed with rabies, please take me out to a barn and shoot my like Old Yeller, because this is terrifying.

2.) Ondine’s Curse

rare diseases

Photo: 20th Century Fox

This is a weird disease that if gone undiagnosed will kill you in your sleep. The name stems from mythology, as Ondine was a nymph who fell in love with a mortal and swore that each of his breaths would be a testament of his love for her. But then the dude cheated on her, so she cursed him to stop breathing the next time he fell asleep.

This disease affects the function of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates breathing. Sufferers literally have to consciously remember to breathe. If the person doesn’t die before being diagnosed, they have to be hooked up to ventilators to sleep. Aside from that, they are able to live relatively normal lives. Science hasn’t figured out what causes it, but genetics are believed to play a major role. It has also shown up in adults after major surgery or trauma. Aside from not being sure what causes it, the only “cure” is to remind yourself to breathe while you’re awake and hooking yourself to a machine to sleep. Count me out for any disease where an unplanned nap can kill you.

Also: 10 Diseases That Only Happen In One Place

3.) Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva

rare diseases

Photo: Toei Animation

If there is any good news about this disease, it’s that it’s extremely rare. It affects the connective tissues (tendons, ligaments and muscles) by slowly turning them into bone. Which is why it’s often referred to as Stone Man Syndrome. It’s caused by a gene that is normally deactivated once a fetus’ bones are formed in the womb, but in people with FOP, the gene doesn’t turn off. So they spend their life being turned into their own prison. There is no cure, and treatment to remove the bones only makes it worse.

4.) Fatal Familial Insomnia

rare diseases

Photo: 20th Television

The only good thing about this disease is that it is astonishingly rare. To date, it has only been discovered in 40 families worldwide. And even then, you will live a normal life until about the age of 50. After that, Fatal Familial Insomnia will kill you. In some cases in as little as as seven months. In others, three years. But you will die. Science knows it’s passed from parent to child, but little else. The scariest part of FFI is that it’s sufferers don’t have the ability to sleep.

While rabies won’t let you have water, this disease won’t let you have sleep. Hell, science isn’t even on the same page for the reasons we need sleep. But one thing’s for sure: if you don’t get it, you die.

While patients aren’t sleeping, they suffer from unbelievably high pulse rates and blood pressure, excessive sweating, and an eventual loss of motor skills. But the truly sad part is that the patient is completely aware of all of this. The mind isn’t affected. So the person with FFI knows that they are going to die, but is no longer in control of their body and won’t die in their sleep.

I used to daydream about what it would be like to not need sleep, about how much stuff you could get done if you could use all the hours in a day. But after reading up about FFI, I’m never going to take sleep for granted again.

5.) Ebola

rare diseases

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

Among all the incurable diseases, Ebola is probably the most famous. It is a virus and takes its name from the Ebola River in central Africa where it was first recorded in 1976. If you ask me, I think it’s high time someone change to name of that river. Although, I’m sure you can get a great deal on hotels in the area.

Some of the most common symptoms include severe headache, fever, weakness, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, unexplained hemorrhage, and abdominal pain. These symptoms usually appear between 2 and 21 days after being exposed to Ebola. The virus is spread through bodily fluids, the most common are blood, stool and vomit. Although it’s also been found in breast milk and semen. There are no cures for Ebola. All you can do is treat the symptoms and hope you’re one of the lucky ones.