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Nodding disease kills 200 children in Uganda

January 25, 2012


By Pascal Kwesiga

Over 200 children have so far died of the mysterious Nodding disease in northern Uganda where it broke out three years ago.

The Ministry of Health reported early this month that it had recorded 66 deaths as a result of the disease. The number has since more than tripled.

The ministry on Tuesday also announced that the number of children infected with the disease had also risen to over 3,000 from 2,000 that was reported at the beginning of this year.

In an interview with New Vision, the commissioner for health services, Dr. Anthony Mbonye, said they were investigating reports that the disease that has been concentrated in Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader districts has spread to Lira and the surrounding areas.

Mbonye added that in Tumangu sub-county in Kitgum, almost every household has at least a child suffering from the disease, whose cure has not been established yet.

Recent studies into the disease by the health ministry and the Centre for Disease Control did not indicate any conclusive causes of the Nodding disease which first broke out in 2009.

Food-triggered attack

The disease causes seizures and the victim becomes physically and mentally stunted, resulting into blindness and death.

Health officials say the attacks are triggered by food. The seizure begins when the affected person begins to eat.

They start nodding with uncoordinated hand movements, so they fail to get food into the mouth. The odd causes of the disease have forced some parents to avoid feeding their children.

Reports indicated that some parents were tying the affected children to trees to control the uncoordinated hand movements.

Nodding disease or nodding syndrome is little known. It is said to have first emerged in Sudan in the 1980s.

The director general of health services, Dr. Jane Aceng, told journalists at the Media Centre in Kampala that the ministry was offering treatment to the affected people due to the lack of a definite cure to the disease.

She admitted that not all causes of diseases are known.

Aceng was responding to queries about what the ministry has been treating since they do not know the exact cause and treatment of the disease. But she explained that initial studies had linked the disease to epilepsy and malnutrition.

Commissioner for clinical services Dr. Jacinto Amandua said those affected by the disease were receiving treatment for epilepsy, malnutrition, convulsions, seizures, Vitamin A deficiencies and worms.

The health ministry disclosed that it has developed a comprehensive emergency response plan to tackle the increasing cases of Nodding disease.

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