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Mystery Disease

From Reuters, via Yahoo News:

Nodding syndrome was first documented in Tanzania as early as 1962. Fifty years later, researchers still don’t know what it is.

“We have a long list of things that are not causing nodding disease. We still don’t have a definitive cause,” said Dr. Scott Dowell, director of the division of global disease detection and emergency response of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Officials from the Atlanta, Georgia-based CDC were in Uganda for nine days in February on the latest of three trips to investigate the disease.

“We have ruled out, through our field studies and our laboratory testing, more than three different hypothesized causes including . . . 18 virus families with hundreds of members,” said Dowell.

It’s a relatively rare situation for the CDC to be in; of 600 outbreaks of illnesses investigated by the organization’s division of global disease detection, just six are unresolved.

Areas to think about:

  • How would you go about investigating an outbreak of an unidentified serious illness?
  • After so many years of investigation, what other options remain regarding its aetiology?

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