A look at the Ugandan Nodding Syndrome

by Spencer Hardy on March 28, 2014

 

The Ugandan Nodding Disease is one of the most mysterious, rare, debilitating diseases to ravage Africa.  Embedded in parts of Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan this illness shows no mercy to the children of these regions.  Only affecting a small portion of children aged 5-15, about 3,000 have been diagnosed since the early 1990’s.  The symptoms of the disease are extremely discomforting and disturbing.  The children’s growth is stunted completely plus their brain never grows, if anything it deteriorates.  It was coined the nodding disease because of the children’s peculiar behavior which included involuntarily nodding their heads back and forth.  Another very interesting aspect of the illness is children’s seizures are often triggered by the presentation of food or colder temperatures.  Seizures stop when the child is warm and not eating.  Furthermore, if the child is presented food that they are unfamiliar with they will not seize.  The children seem to drift off into their own world not responding to physical stigma at all.  The infected even wander off into the woods, never to be seen again until their corpses are dragged back by dogs.  This picture below portrays Robert Arima.  He must be tied, by chain to the roof to ensure he doesn’t wander away.imgres The family is too poor and far away to reach a clinic that could help poor Robert.  For those lucky enough to seek help, Sodium Valproate has been given to the children in these regions but lack of data doesn’t give accurate results of its effectiveness.  Personal anecdotes have served as the main means of data collection.  The drug seems to be working, with some children gaining neurological functions back.  The drug only seems to help seizures but does not cure the disease itself.  The cause of the disease is also completely unknown.  Hypothesis’ include a type of parasitic worm, black fly or possibly even chemical leftovers from wartime.  Epidemiologists are frantically trying to pinpoint the disease considering it’s only in very specific regions, but they are unsuccessful.  The disease remains a mystery and it will continue to ruin the lives of these children.  Although it is a very small portion I believe that aid needs to be delivered to those affected. 

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nodding_disease

http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/06/02/185787683/nodding-syndrome-a-devastating-medical-mystery-in-uganda

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-17589445

http://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/noddingsyndrome/


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