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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs