More than 2000 people have been infected with the nodding disease in northern Uganda, and more than 100 of them have died. The problem is that no-one knows what causes the disease or how it can be treated. The disease infects children between the ages of 5 and 15, and permanently stunts their growth including the growth of their brains, leading to intellectual impairment. Victims suffer from nodding fits.
Seizures are often experienced when victims begin to eat food or when they feel cold. The seizures stop when the victims stop eating or feel warm again. The appearance of seizures varies from victim to victim, but some nod very rapidly, some suffer tonic-clonic seizures, and some freeze. The cause of the disease is unknown, but it may be caused by a parasitic worm which is carried by the black fly, although that worm is common in areas which do not have the nodding disease.
The nodding disease has been prevalent in northern Uganda since September 2009. The disease has since spread to Kitgum, Lamwo, Pader, Agago and Amuru, with more than 1000 cases diagnosed in the past 6 months. Scientists from the Ugandan ministry of health, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control are about to carry out new tests in an attempt to track down the cause of the mysterious disease.