Some really disturbing news is coming out of Pader, Uganda, as a mysterious illness known as Nodding Disease is turning children into seemingly mindless zombies with a penchant for starting fires.
“Her personality has changed greatly from before. She was normal when she was born, and now she just moves around and serves no purpose,” says mother Grace Lagat, whose daughter Pauline has been stuck with this mind boggling affliction.
Pauline, like more than 3,000 other children in Northern Uganda, has been struck by the mysterious syndrome that has doctors and scientists puzzled and has shattered lives in this rural community.
Nodding Disease gets its name from the strange nodding-like symptoms that children display in the first stages of a seizure. But doctors on the ground and at the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that is the least profound effect.
Often the children will wander off by themselves and get lost in the bush. And other children will start fires, according to parents and medics in the field. Others appear confused and traumatized.
CNN reports that several houses in areas they visited had been burnt down by children suffering from Nodding Disease. More than 200 deaths have been reported from these “secondary” incidents.
Once Pauline vanished for five days. Now, to protect her children, Lagat ties them up when she leaves. She pulls Pauline and her brother, Thomas, who also suffers from Nodding Disease, inside her hut and ties them with a colorful, local fabric. First, she ties their legs to a wooden pole and then their hands together like handcuffs. Thomas tears at them with his teeth. “When I am going to the garden, I tie them with cloth. If I don’t tie them, I come back and find that they have disappeared,” she tells CNN.
This outbreak in Uganda is confined to the north and is not believed to be contagious, but from a public health standpoint it still has to be taken seriously. Right now there is no real solution. Nodding Disease leads to epilepsy like symptoms, says the World Health Organization, but the cause is unknown and there is no cure.
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