Whereas government last week officially opened nodding disease syndrome reception centres in Pader, Kitgum and Lamwo districts, the disease, whose cause and treatment is yet to be established, has reportedly spread to Gulu District.
The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO), have confirmed the development with the latter warning government to be cautious in its response to diseases.
Speaking at the opening of the nodding disease screening and treatment centre in Kitgum District on Friday, the WHO resident representative in Uganda, Dr Joaquim Saweka, warned that government should also address treatment and management of HIV/Aids and malaria.
He said the nodding disease syndrome is not unique to Uganda and is no longer a public health issue in Tanzania and South Sudan where it was reported earlier.
Dr Saweka said WHO is currently investigating the link between nodding disease and onchocerciasis, a parasitic condition that can cause river blindness, which has so far been linked to the disease.
“We have now arrived at an observation that places which suffer from nodding disease have high concentrations of onchocerciasis but we cannot decisively conclude that this is the parasite causing the nodding syndrome,” adding that WHO had been treating the disease as a post-traumatic stress disorder.
“If we are advocating resources, let’s not use nodding disease as an entry point because if all health centres are functional, the facilities can handle all health problems,” the WHO representative said.
Gulu Woman MP Betty Aol Ochan said last week that 100 cases of the disease were reported in Palaro Parish, Odek Sub-county in Gulu District, with another 45 reported in Paicho Parish.
Meanwhile, the health ministry has so far screened 795 nodding disease patients. Thirteen are admitted to Atanga Health Centre II while 46 are admitted to Kitgum Hospital.
According to the national response coordinator, Dr Bernard Opar, the number could be less than what is on the ground but government has allocated us four motor vehicles.
“The 795 cases are those with the nodding disease syndrome and epilepsy. We also have cases of malnutrition but we hope to cover the entire districts and compare the statistics with those provided,” said Dr Opar, adding that the most affected areas are those surrounding River Agago and river Aswa in Pader District.