In the survey in which they have screened more than 1000 people across the country, Kakooza says they found seven in ten people don’t know that they actually have the condition since some of the people don’t get seizures which is the most common symptom of the disease but get episodes of being absent from reality.
Preliminary findings of Uganda’s first ever study to
establish the prevalence of epilepsy, a neurological disorder marked by sudden
recurrent episodes of unconsciousness or convulsions but associated with a lot
of myths show that 2 percent of Ugandans suffer from the condition.
Dr Angelina Kakooza,
a researcher and Pediatric Neurologist based at Makerere University told URN on
Monday as the International Day of Epilepsy was marked, that while a number of
people live with the condition, the majority are unaware and tend not to seek
proper healthcare for it.
In the survey in which they have screened more than 1000
people across the country, Kakooza says they found seven in ten people don’t
know that they actually have the condition since some of the people don’t get
seizures which is the most common symptom of the disease but get episodes of being
absent from reality.
//Cue in; “We are carrying out…
Cue out…epilepsy in Uganda.”//
A final report of the survey will be released later this
year after concluding the validation process which also involves a clinical assessment
of the participants. Before this happens,
Kakooza says, they are establishing
that people from a family that has had the disease are four times more likely
to get it. Some people
especially children acquire the brain disorder at birth, whereas some become epileptic
in old age following head injury or after being infected with tapeworm.
//Cue in; “common depends on…
Cue out…. The causes vary.”//
Commenting about the findings, Dr Kenneth Kalani, a psychiatrist said that now that they are
establishing that more people are suffering from epilepsy there’s need to change
the attitude among health workers in lower facilities to start handling such
He said for a long time statistics have been quoting only 1 per cent of the people suffer from the disease and yet low cadre health workers have
been handling the condition as a specialized case and therefore always refer
them to high level health facilities that have neurologists and psychiatrists. As a result, patients are kept away from timely care.
Now, he says it’s clear that the few
specialists in the country cannot handle all these cases as already, the picture
of those seeking care is grim showing that 80 per cent don’t visit any health facility
even as they present with dangerous symptoms such as seizures.
Sarah Nekesa, of the Epilepsy Support Association Uganda
(ESAU) that helps people living with the disease says majority of the sufferers
instead seek services of traditional healers and witches because of the limited
information surrounding the condition.
Nekesa tells URN that they started a programme aimed at
helping people access treatment in which they reached out to witch doctors to be
partners but this was only sustained for a short time.
//Cue in; “We gave them...
Cue out…convince them again.”//
However, northern Uganda records the highest prevalence of
the disease, followed by Eastern Uganda.