post Nodding Disease

October 23rd, 2012

Filed under: Social Issues, The Unspoken — Lissan Magazine @ 19:52

A mysterious disease is killing thousands of children in Uganda, Sudan and Tanzania.

The cause of the “nodding disease” is as yet unknown but it only affects children between the ages of five and 15.

Thought to be an epileptic neurological effect of the Onchocerca volvulus parasitic worm that causes Onchocerciasis or river blindness, victims suffer seizures that often start with nodding of the head, giving it its name.

Malcolm Webb reports from northern Uganda.

Source: Aljazeera


Nodding Disease baffles Experts.

Here in a hot, dusty part of northern Uganda, children are falling victim to a mysterious disease that has confounded health officials.

It’s known loosely as “nodding disease” and almost every family in the village we’ve come to see in Pader District has at least one child suffering from it.

Nine year old Vicky Ayaa began showing symptoms on the day we arrived.

The disease gets its name from its most noticeable symptom. The young girl appears to be nodding off. Her eyes begin to close and her head drifts downwards as if she’s falling asleep, yet she’s not tired and doesn’t want to lose focus.

Every few seconds her head jolts upwards and her startled gaze is upon us, then the eyelids become heavy and she fades again.

Over time, Vicky will likely get much worse, falling down and injuring herself, losing cognitive ability and experiencing stunted growth.

School often becomes too difficult for many children with nodding disease and they drop out. Indeed many of them die young.

They can fall into cooking fires when losing consciousness. Drown during a seizure. Die of opportunistic infections that strike the malnourished. Or they may simply be abandoned by their families.

“Within the communities some of the parents have thrown their children onto the streets,” says Dr. Emmanuel Tenywa, the World Health Organization’s team leader in the area. “They say they are tired. For how long will they be looking after these children? If you have seen these cases in their homes, you would cry when you look at them.”

When Vicky recovers from the nodding bout, she’s able to fetch water, but she must be watched closely.

Her mother weeps behind a nearby tree, distraught because she has only two children, and now, both of them have the condition.

William Oyet, a government health officer in the district, says this family’s case is typical. “It can start anywhere, and the whole people in the village are worried because any time, any day, your kid will start nodding.”

Experts from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have been trying to find the cause of this condition. So far they’ve come up empty-handed.

Dr. Scott Dowell, from the CDC’s Division of Disease Detection & Emergency Response, led an investigation in the area. He says they’re not only baffled by the cause of the disease. They can’t determine why it only preys on children. “It really is very tightly clustered between five and 15 years of age,” he says. “In the study we did in northern Uganda 93% of kids were in that age window and I don’t know why that is.”

Throughout the village, some parents of the children are desperate.

As cruel as it seems, one mother keeps her son, David Okot, tied at the ankle with a rope so he can’t wander off.

David first showed symptoms of nodding disease in 2003. He’s 15 years old now, but looks much younger. He spends most of his days, angry and confused, tethered to a post on his family’s hut.

Since he became afflicted with the condition, David has developed a mental disability. He hasn’t spoken clearly for two years. Some villagers are frightened by him and consider him dangerous.

And these dangers, and fears, are in evidence almost everywhere you turn in the village.

William Oyet, the local health official, shows us two more children who appear to be about six or seven years old. “Monica is 13 years old and when you look she has stunted growth and cannot go to school, cannot do anything.”

The other child wears only a pair of faded shorts. His face and distended belly are covered in saliva. “He’s 11 years old,” says Oyet. “When you see the syndrome it has affected the growth. He cannot do much. The head, the saliva is all over the body and he’s really malnourished.”

Indeed many of the affected children are malnourished because eating food seems to spark bouts of nodding and sometimes seizures. Epilepsy drugs have been used to control the episodes, but they do not cure the condition, for which the key question is: what’s causing it?

“I wish we knew. It’s really frustrating,” says the CDC’s Dowell. “We know now from the most recent investigation that it is a brain disease. There’s clearly something wrong with the brains of these kids who have it. We’ve documented by MRI scans that the brains have some atrophy and by EEG that the brain waves are abnormal. In fact some of the kids with nodding have almost continuous seizure activity although they appear fairly normal.”

But the elusive question remains. “We understand the path of physiology of nodding but we still don’t know what causes it,” says Dowell.

The WHO’s Dr. Emmanuel Tenywa says there are other clues. For example, he says all the affected children have onchocerciasis, a parasitic condition that can cause blindness.

“I think that gives us a bit of a starting point,” says Tenywa. “But the whole issue is now if you are infected with onchocerciasis, how does it cross the brain barrier to go into the brain, and what damage does it exactly do? These are the things which we are trying to understand.”

But onchocerciasis is common in many African countries, so why doesn’t nodding disease appear elsewhere? So far it’s only been found in small pockets of northern Uganda, Sudan and Tanzania, but the number of cases is growing. That’s raising fears that it could spread to more areas, sparking a greater sense of urgency in the health community.

But for the people in this village in northern Uganda, the sense of urgency couldn’t be any greater. To them it’s not a medical mystery. It’s a blight that’s picking off their children, one by one.


post Tsunami of dazzling Ladies

October 21st, 2012

Filed under: Opinions, Life Style — Beza Kassahun @ 14:28

Tsunami of dazzling Ladies in Town
by Beza Kassahun

Have you noticed the tsunami of the dazzling ladies in town these days? Is it like an ordain for a mother lately to give birth to something not less than pretty? May be I am exaggerating it a bit more, fact be told am sure am not the only one having this observation. Somewhere out there at least there is that one person who shares my thoughts. Prior to writing this article; in need of juicy details I had the privilege to converse the issue with few residents of Addis, most of them of course men. More often than not in my view there is this somehow unrealistic conviction that women tend to be envious of one other. I myself am a woman, and I would rather not be biased and tend to take sides on this assumption; but as far as my knowledge goes and my life experience teaches me; there sure is a tendency of jealousy among women but that does not mean it works for all; and may be that is why I chose not to direct my research towards women.

From what I seem to discover from my research, year after year there have been a mounting number of fine-looking young ladies on the streets of Addis. The way they dress, act and talk have been changing gradually from what our parents refer as ‘the old days’. Sure beauty is skin deep and it lies on the eyes of the beholder, but may be in this scenario all things being equal what if most of the people out there share almost more or less the same perception of the matter at hand; which is the ladies these days are just spectacular.

In all honesty, what would I do “If I were a boy in this situation?” this question has been mingling in my head for a while now. The choice is too vast, the ratio of women exceeds men and the desperation as to whom am I going to date or who is going to date me grows accordingly. Not pushing the age much further former to tying the knot matters for the ladies more than it does for the guys. Her time is her beauty the years whereby she shines the most and the moment she calls her own.

Well amongst all these beauties left and right it is for the man to choose for his own even though the willingness to accept relies on women as well. That is when the bewilderment lies I hope. I still cannot give adequate reason as to why all of a sudden there are unexplainable beautiful ladies out there, but all I know is looks can be deceiving, and it all fades with time what really matters when it comes to marriage is what is inside of your spouse that keeps your marriage tied up for as long as you both shall live. And by no means am I sending out the notion that strikingly amazing women do not have an awesome personality. We all have our own flaws regardless of how we look on the outside, communication trespass the physical attraction and so does personality more than looks. Let’s just put our ducks in a raw and prioritize what is more important to life; your life! I am aware of the fact that am talking about something you might already know, your choice is your own, make sure it is the right one; no one lives your life much better than you do!

Beza Kassahun
September, 2011

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