Could Uganda’s ‘nodding disease’ be a form of river epilepsy?

Posted June 9, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 3,622 views


Appearing on CNN International, Dr. Scott Dowell’s comments followed a report from Global Health Frontline News in Uganda showing children stricken with seizures, stunted growth, malnutrition, and mental disabilities.

In an appearance on CNN International, Dr. Scott Dowell of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said more research is needed to understand the cause of a mysterious condition known as “nodding disease.”

Dowell’s comments followed a report by Global Health Frontline News (GHFN), which reported on the disease in the Pader district of northern Uganda.

The report, broadcast on CNN, shows children who’ve been stricken by the disease, which begins with the symptom that gave it its name: nodding as if they’re falling asleep. Later, the children often develop stunted growth, malnutrition, seizures and a failure to develop mentally. It strikes children between the ages of five and 15, seemingly indiscriminately.

Dowell had previously led a team to northern Uganda to investigate. He says the CDC has also sent a team to Sudan, where there have been additional cases of the disease. So far, researchers from the CDC and the World Health Organization have established that this is a brain disease, but they’re baffled by the cause. There’s no effective treatment other than epilepsy drugs to help control seizures.

Dowell, who was also featured in the GHFN story, said during his CNN interview that more must be done to understand and control nodding disease. “We have to help these people by investigating and finding the cause,” he said. “It’s in our interests to do that, not just because it’s the right thing to do but also because you never know when these diseases are going to spread.”

To see GHFN’s report on nodding disease, go to

Launched in January, GHFN assigns video newsgathering crews worldwide to cover major global health stories in partnership with selected broadcasters and Internet platforms. As a nonprofit project with a mission to produce video news stories on global health issues that are largely under-reported by mainstream media, GHFN focuses its coverage on diseases that mainly affect impoverished populations in developing nations – malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases such as river blindness and trachoma – and on maternal/child health and food security.

Funded by nonpartisan donors and operating independently, GHFN follows strict journalistic standards and produces high-quality video news material for broadcast globally by television networks and wide distribution on the Internet.

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Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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