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Monday, August 10, 2009

Uganda: Unexplained Brain Disease Strikes Children Uganda: Nodding Disease Or 'River Epilepsy'? (Page 1 of 1)
A rare and unexplained brain disease has affected hundreds of Ugandan children, health workers say.

The "nodding disease" causes seizures, and affected children become physically and mentally stunted, which can lead to blindness and even death.

"Nodding disease" is not unknown to medical science, but the best-known concentration of cases had previously been reported from southern Sudan. A medical NGO in the Mundri area of western Equatoria had reported an estimated 300 cases around 2003.

Northern Uganda's Kitgum disctrict, an area recovering from two decades of civil war, appears a new epicentre of the disease.

Local leaders Obonyo Yokoyedo told IRIN that 200 children in his village of Okidi alone had the illness. "We have lost three girls... one drowned in a well during a seizure; the other two went several weeks without eating," he said.

Janet Oola, Kitgum health officer, said hundreds of children had presented symptoms of the "nodding disease" in the district in 2008. "It is an early stage of epilepsy," she added.

A likely cause of the disease is a neurological effect of the parasitic worm that causes Onchocerciasis (river blindness). Recently published medical research supports a link and doctors who have studied nodding in the field say the two are connected.

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