A medical team from the World Health Organisation and the health ministry is in Kitgum district to investigate a strange disease locally referred to as â€˜nodding diseaseâ€™.
The team, including doctors from the US-based Centre for Disease Control, started its work yesterday by dispatching doctors to Amida, Akwang and Palabek Gem sub-counties.
The disease was first reported in June.
It has so far affected at least 300 children, mostly between five and 12 years.
The team, led by an official from the Malaria Control Programme, Dr. Richard Ndyomugyenyi, is expected to examine children affected by the disease, treat symptoms and manage their nutritional needs.
It will also train health workers in handling patients with the disease.
Speaking during their first meeting at the district council hall on Monday, Ndyomugyenyi said there was need for a rapid diagnosis of the disease.
He said 12 cases would be investigated and subjected to rigorous medical tests.
â€œWe will be taking blood samples for further investigations,â€ he said.
The WHO officer in-charge of disease surveillance and response, Dr. William Mbabazi, told The New Vision that the team wanted to find out the cause of the disease, adding that it was unknown and had no cure.
Mbabazi said Uganda was the fourth country to be struck by the strange disease after Sudan, DR Congo and Tanzania.
â€œEarlier investigations to find out the cause of the disease were not fruitful as the affected communities did not want to cooperate with the medial team. In Uganda, the people are cooperative,â€™ Mbabazi said.
He, however, said people should not expect the doctors to cure the disease until they know what it is.
â€œWe will manage the symptoms like malnutrition, convulsions and anaemia. We are not aiming at treating the disease. We are going to treat the side symptoms as we try to learn and later get a permanent solution,â€ he said.
â€œIf we finally find out the cause of the disease, we will then start a prevention programme,â€ Mbabazi added.
He said the team would register the affected persons, adding that the disease could be present in other areas of the district and the neighbouring Pader.
It also emerged during the meeting that the anticonvulsant drugs used to treat the symptoms of the disease were out of stock.
Mbabazi said he had ordered for the drugs and expected them by Thursday.
According to an August report by the senior psychiatric clinical officer at Kitgum Hospital, Mary Grace Lanyero, the disease seems to have two stages.
She said affected persons start with nodding and later get fits.
Lanyero added that the disease manifests itself in the affected children through malnourishment, dry skin with rashes, stunted growth and drooling.
Her report was written after a field visit to the affected areas.
Nodding disease investigated