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Nodding Disease Continues To Sweep Through Uganda, Sudan

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Joyce Lallam, 14, one of more than 3,000 children in northern Uganda who are suffering from a mystery ailment known as nodding disease, poses outside her family home in Tumangu village, in the northern Uganda Kitgum district on February 1, 2012. (Photo by MICHELE SIBILONI/AFP/Getty Images)

Joyce Lallam, 14, one of more than 3,000 children in northern Uganda who are suffering from a mystery ailment known as nodding disease, poses outside her family home in Tumangu village, in the northern Uganda Kitgum district on February 1, 2012. (Photo by MICHELE SIBILONI/AFP/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – The Centers for Disease Control have furthered their efforts to learn more about Nodding Disease, a fatal disease that can render those affected, usually children and teens, severely disabled, both mentally and physically.

“Nodding disease mostly affects 5- to 15-year-old children that we saw when we went and visited them in Uganda,” CDC medical officer Jennifer Foltz, MD, states in a video released by the CDC on the matter.

Nodding Disease reportedly affects children around the ages of 5 to 9, though they can be born healthy and lead normal lives before succumbing to the effects of the ailment. So far, it has drastically altered the lives of a reported 3,000 children.

And that number keeps getting bigger.

Foltz said the CDC has been investigating Nodding Disease in the region since 2009, when locals began to notice its devastating effects on the development of their children.

“It’s reported that [affected children] have problems thinking and concentrating in class, and then this head-nodding starts,” she said. “Then they can have problems concentrating so much that they drop out of school, become physically disabled. They become mentally disabled.”

There have been few, if any, reports of improvements in individual cases once a child is affected with the seizure disorder.

The name of the disease comes from the nodding motion children make in the first stages of seizures. But that nodding is merely a precursor to the true debilitating nature of the ailment.

According to a CNN report, children will then experience severe, seemingly epileptic fits, during which they lose most motor function and become “shells of their former selves.”

Shifts as small as a change in the weather can trigger these seizures.

Other symptoms allegedly include setting fires to local homes, extreme confusion and disorientation with their surroundings.

The exact cause is unknown, though parasitic worms, exposure to chemical warfare and vitamin deficiencies have all been courted as possibilities.

Despite all of their suffering, however, Foltz was moved to note the selfless nature of the people hit hardest by Nodding Disease while disclosing the results of her team’s research.

She concluded, “[T]hey hope that through their struggle that at least it can help us learn about the disease and then carry forward and maybe prevent it in other children.”

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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