Uganda increasingly worried about mysterious 'nodding disease'

Jan 11, 2012 12:00 AM

The Ugandan people and government are getting increasingly worried about the mysterious 'nodding disease' or 'nodding syndrome' that has killed over 100 people and left over 2,000 others infected in five districts of northern Uganda over the past year or more.
On its part, the government said scientists are set to launch a series of investigations after previous ones failed to identify the cause of the disease, which was first reported in September.

Richard Nduhura, minister of state for health in charge of general duties, said that the two previous samples and tests carried out by the Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta, US failed to identify the cause of the disease. Nduhura, who is leading a fact-finding mission in the affected areas which are also recovering from two decades of insurgency, said that a team of scientists from the ministry of health, the World Health Organization and CDC is going to carry out new tests.
''We are going to handle and give this matter (disease) the attention it deserves. We are going to work with you (residents) to find out the cause and solution to this problem,'' he said.

The disease only attacks children, typically between the ages of 5 and 15.
It has been dubbed the 'nodding disease' because one of the first symptoms is uncontrollable nodding. It leads to stunted physical and brain growth, leaving victims both mentally and physically handicapped even if they survive.

First reported in Sudan in the 1980s, the disease has had a relatively limited spread so far, having only hit pockets of Tanzania and Uganda. However, the latest outbreak in the Ugandan regions of Kitgum, Lamwo, Pader, Agago and Amuru has set alarm bells ringing among scientists and the public alike.
District councillors from the affected areas are demanding that rehabilitation centres be established in the region to monitor the disease until the cause is established.

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