In Northern Uganda, approximately 3000 children have become afflicted with what has been called “nodding disease,” or more colloquially “zombie disease.” It only affects children, and is truly mysterious.
- Continual nodding motion of the head
- Epilepsy-like seizures
- Confusion and disorientation
- Destructive behavior in rare cases
- Inattentiveness and lack of responsiveness
- Severe mental impairment
- Bizarre behaviors like starting fires and isolated incidents of growling and biting
The setting of fires is really mysterious. Often, the children will create a fire and then launch themselves into it. There have been reports of the nodding behavior beginning in one house, and then bizarrely spreading to other children in other houses.
Appearing in the 1980’s in West Africa, “slim disease” turned out to be the beginning of AIDS. Early reports are making the same comparison.
Most heartbreaking of all is the abandonment of these children by their parents, as they feel there is no possibility of rehabilitation.
The cause and exact nature of the syndrome remains unknown, despite investigations by local and international actors, including WHO. Investigations have ruled out toxic, infectious or nutritional factors. There does appear to be a link to Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, as a very large percentage of the outbreaks are located in areas prevalent with that particular ailment. And in both conditions a modest deficiency of vitamin B6 and of other micronutrients, such as zinc, vitamin A and selenium are common.
Nodding disease is just another of many ailments with mysterious origins. As was reported recently in ZRS, a flight had to return to London because of a mysterious on-board illness, and reports of the Zika virus are popping up every day. Nodding disease is a good example of a virus hijacking a human’s brain, and causing it to act in a way it normally wouldn’t — even to its destruction.
I was asked one time how it would be possible for something like a zombie virus could ever make its way around the world. Wouldn’t they just contain it once it was detected, they remarked. My answer was this: The inability to detect a virus without a known DNA footprint, one with an incubation period that would allow it to piggy-back on passengers of planes, ships, and heck, courier packages would easily make that possible.
Food for thought.