News

    Northern Ugandan Children Affected by Unknown Disease

    Children suffering from nodding disease gather in Akoya-Lamin Omony village in Gulu district, 384 kilometers north of Uganda's capital of Kampala, February 19, 2012.
    Children suffering from nodding disease gather in Akoya-Lamin Omony village in Gulu district, 384 kilometers north of Uganda's capital of Kampala, February 19, 2012.
    Alex Pena

    Children in parts of Northern Uganda are dealing with a strange and extremely debilitating disease. Researchers on the ground have yet to pinpoint an origin, which is leaving the cure unknown.

    It is called the nodding disease, for the effect of “nodding back and forth” it gives to the affected people.

    It is mostly children who contract the disease, some as young as five. It causes epilepsy, seizures and, in some cases, blindness. The ministry of health in Uganda says there are now more than 3,000 cases of nodding disease affecting Ugandan children.

    Pervasive illness

    Rukia Nakamatte, a spokesperson for the ministry of health, has been in the affected northern areas. She describes how rampant and serious the disease has become.

    “Most of them nod and most of them, because they have epilepsy, and they keep falling, you realize that most of them have injuries, some of the injuries on their legs, on their hands. It’s really a terrible situation, but we are controlling it,” said Nakamatte.

    Since 2009, when the first case of nodding disease was recorded in Uganda, there have been 170 documented deaths. The government has been criticized for a slow response to treating what has become a disease quickly growing in numbers.

    According to Nakamatte, some families can have multiple children affected.

    “You might find that one family is affected, and it has about four cases. Another family that you know does not have any case, and another family that is a distance apart, has one case or a few. So they are scared. But they also know that this is something that is not contagious, but something that whose cause we have failed to know,” said Nakamatte.

    Cause unknown

    Researchers are still uncertain about the origins of the disease, but there are a few leads. Some believe the black-fly-borne parasite, which causes river blindness, may have a link, and they also have noticed a deficiency in vitamin B6 in the affected areas.

    Dr. Joaquim Saweka, representative for the World Health Organization in Uganda, said teams are working simultaneously to both pinpoint the cause and treat the symptoms.

    “It is important - early diagnosis. So good surveillance system, so that the case is detected in time before they evolve to more complicated epilepsy-like forms. Usually they respond very well to the medicine we use for epilepsy,” said Saweka.

    With these epilepsy-like symptoms, Saweka said children with the nodding disease are extremely prone to accidents. Most of the deaths related to the disease have been from secondary causes.

    “When the seizure come affect the child. There is even loss of consciousness, and then what happen if they are near the water, or a river, near the fire, so it can cause the reason that can lead to the death. And, even if the seizure too strong, can also end by the death of the child,” said Saweka.

    And, until doctors and researchers find a cure, treating the symptoms of this unknown and debilitating disease will be first priority.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Leabo
    March 21, 2012 9:34 AM
    ESAT news said a deadly disease killed and is currently killing hundreds in the District 1 (Tigray) Ethiopia.Some international health organization are investigating the issue independently .This disease is not simple since it makes the sick loose lots of weight , get a high level of body temperature , bloat the stomach with inflated stomach making people look almost like a nine month pregnant lady with a very thin body, then finally makes their mind sick and they die

    by: Warren Bachand
    March 16, 2012 12:08 PM
    Uganda authorities asked Medical Teams International (MedicalTeams.org) to help these children. MTI has agreed to provide anti-seizure medicines to 500 children. These medicines will reduce symptoms and help children cope with this disease. Medical Teams will also will help communities support parents so that they can continue to care for their children. Their work also includes providing information to the Centers for Disease Control to help find the cause of nodding disease.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.