The Nodding Disease
The nodding disease is an extremely rare disease common in the areas of South Sudan, Northern Uganda, and Tanzania in recent times. A fatal illness affecting children between the ages of 5 and 15, it is documented to have emerged in the 1980s in Sudan, although its symptoms were first seen in a remote mountain region of Tanzania.
Symptoms and diagnosis
The symptoms of the nodding disease are as baffling as the disease is rare. First off, the sufferers will have stunted growth affecting them both physically and mentally, the brain will stop growing and so the child will be both physically and mentally retarded. Then comes the nodding for which the disease is named, the child will suffer from seizures in which they pathologically nod sometimes slow and other times at an alarming rate. The child will then go into a full seizure or will freeze, in extreme cases s/he will collapse which tends to lead to other kinds of injuries.
The nodding is set off when the child is presented with food or when they feel cold. It will subside once they begin to feel warm again or when the food is taken away. This results into a lot of problems as eating is essential for survival and going into seizure at all meal times can quickly become an unbearable ordeal. Interestingly though, when the child is presented with a food that they do not recognize as food say a piece of chocolate, they will not go into seizure. This leaves the question as to how their brains decide to reject food, and how long you can keep surprising them in order to feed them without incident.
Causes and treatments
Researchers are yet to find a conclusive cause for the illness and therefore treatment of it is difficult. Patients are usually given anti-convulsants to help with the seizures and in some cases anti malarial medication have been given, though their effect is yet to be established. This has made the disease progressive and fatal and though some children have reportedly been cured, how is yet to be established.
Currently, in northern Uganda there is an out break of the disease, and it has the MPs representing this area furious at the government for doing nothing to stop the epidemic. There are over 2223 children recorded to have been affected, and with the tendency for them to lose consciousness out of the blue, their other injuries are on the rise. Parents are now living in fear as they watch their children hoping against hope that they do not start to nod. Some MPs claim that last year 8 children were taken to the major referral hospital and were cured and the same treatment should be offered to the children suffering now.
The most painful thing about the nodding disease is the fact that it has no known cause and consequently no cure. Parents are left to watch their children waste away before their very eyes with no way of helping them. To make matters worse is the knowledge that having the disease makes the children more likely to suffer life threatening accidents such as drowning or falling and its related injuries. Scientists are doing their best to try and find what exactly causes the illness and be able to avail a cure for the children afflicted.