Nodding Disease Strikes Uganda, Confounds World

No answers to affliction that causes retardation, stunts growth
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2012 12:03 AM CDT
Nodding Disease Strikes Uganda, Confounds World
Patrick Anywar, 14, one of more than 3,000 children in northern Uganda who are suffering from a mystery ailment known as nodding disease.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – It's called the "nodding disease," a mysterious ailment in East Africa that attacks only children, striking the brain and nervous system, stunting growth, causing seizures and mental retardation, reports the New York Times. It first appeared in the 1960s, but was often misdiagnosed until recently. Found from South Sudan to Tanzania, doctors are struggling to understand the disease, but resources are scarce. “The attention of everyone has gone to malaria,” said the director of a Uganda hospital that has been a leader in tackling the nodding disease. “HIV/AIDS has taken all the doctors.”

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Nodding disease has killed 200 children in Uganda alone since January. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent teams to investigate, but little is known about the mysterious disease yet. Without modern medical answers or treatments, many desperate parents turn to traditional medicine for relief, buying costly powders and elixirs that may not even help. “We have to go back to the drawing board,” said the Ugandan doctor. “There is no money.” (Read more nodding disease stories.)

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