Neglected diseases: Nodding acquaintance
September 9, 2013 Editor 0
AFRICA is home to so many premier-league diseases (such as AIDS, childhood diarrhoea, malaria and tuberculosis) that those in lower divisions are easily ignored. But these neglected illnesses cause suffering and death, and more subtly, when they affect children, eat away at a country’s potential by reducing the human capital of its rising generation. Konzo and nodding syndrome are two particularly nasty members of this class. Both are neurological. And both do affect mainly children. But they are now yielding to investigation, and with it the possibility of prevention—though sadly not cure for those already afflicted.Nodding syndrome, which affects between 5,000 and 10,000 children in South Sudan and Uganda, was first noticed in the early 2000s, though something similar has been known from southern Tanzania since the 1960s. Konzo is older. It was identified in 1938 in what was then the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). It has since been found to occur sporadically over a wide area of central Africa.Both diseases create muscle-control and cognitive problems. Nodding syndrome causes a child (who is usually five or six when symptoms start) to lose control of his neck muscles. His head bobs repeatedly to his chest and he becomes otherwise unresponsive in what is, in essence, an epileptic fit. Those suffering from it develop slowly, both physically and…
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Categories: The Economist
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