The nodding syndrome that has been ravaging parts of northern Uganda is being contained after 96% of the victims have been discharged in better condition, says a health ministry report.
Besides, no new case has been recorded since March when the Government first intervened with campaigns of mass sensitisation and treatment in the region.
According to Dr. Bernard Opar, the national co-coordinator for nodding syndrome, 302 of the 313 children who were admitted in critical condition had been discharged by Wednesday.
The children had been admitted at Kitgum hospital and Lamwo, Pader, Gulu and Lira treatment centres where they received anti-epileptic (Sodium Valproate) drugs and Vitamin B complex.
The nodding syndrome broke out in 2007 among children formerly in the internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps mainly in the districts of Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader.
By early this year, about 200 children had reportedly succumbed to the disease.
However, Opar said, “The children have shown a dramatic positive response to the drugs. Convulsions reduced and some children who had been bedridden for two years started walking about a month or two of treatment.”
Opar also attributed the progress in children’s condition to food supplied by the prime minister’s office, which he said improved their nutrition and energized them to move.
The report shows video clips of some hitherto bedridden nodding children, who can now wash their clothes and do other household chores after receiving treatment.
Some 15 children out of the 37 who had been admitted in Lamwo district have since returned to school.
Nodding disease is believed to be a new type of disorder characterized by head-nodding episodes that consist of repetitive dropping forward of the head.
By Wednesday, the ministry had recorded 2,775 cases, mainly boys between the ages of five and 15.
However, majority of the victims were out patients. Only six of the victims being followed by the medical officers passed on, two of whom this month.
“The cases we are seeing have been prevalent in the communities. There are no new cases,” Dr. Opar said. “Most deaths occurred in the communities before the children reported to health facilities.”
Although preliminary surveys linked the disease to the black fly that causes river blindness, efforts by the health ministry and the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) to determine its actual cause have so far been futile.
The fresh comprehensive research that was agreed upon during the Kampala international scientific conference on nodding disease in August is yet to kick off.
“The sh400m that was approved for the research is yet to be disbursed. We are still sorting out issues of how the funds will be managed,” said Opar.
Besides, the ministry has also finalized plans for aerial spraying of black flies in the region.
According to Opar, a 400sqkm area, mainly the breeding sites for black flies, has been mapped for spraying. It covers areas along River Aswa and its distributaries; Pagel, Agago and Unyama.
Although the cause of nodding disease is still alien, the mappings show that the most affected areas are again those infested with the black flies which cause river blindness.
By Francis Kagolo, The New Vision