Tuesday July 23, 2019

WHO: Millions of People with Epilepsy Reluctant to Seek Treatment Because of Stigma

Nearly 50 million people around the world suffer from epilepsy

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Nearly 50 million people around the world suffer from epilepsy. The World Health Organization reports this neurological disease affects people of all ages in all walks of life. VOA

The World Health Organization says millions of people with epilepsy are reluctant to seek treatment because of the stigma attached to their ailment, leading to the premature death of many.  WHO has released the first global report on epilepsy.

Nearly 50 million people around the world suffer from epilepsy.  The World Health Organization reports this neurological disease affects people of all ages in all walks of life.  It says this brain disease can cause seizures and sometimes loss of awareness.

Program Manager in WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Tarun Dua says people with epilepsy suffer widespread stigma and discrimination as a consequence of their unusual behavior.

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Low doses of topiramate may also increase the risk of oral clefts but to a lesser extent. Wikimedia Commons

“So, in many settings, people with epilepsy they are embarrassed…children are not allowed to go to school, adults are not allowed to work, sometimes not even marry or the right to drive is also not there,” said Dua. “So, these stigma and human rights violations and sometimes also the death that is associated with epilepsy—so premature mortality in epilepsy is three times that of the general population.”

Causes of epilepsy include injury around the time of birth, brain infections from illnesses such meningitis or encephalitis and stroke.  WHO estimates 25 percent of cases are preventable.

Dua says early death among people with epilepsy in low and middle-income countries is significantly higher than in wealthy countries.  She says the stigma associated with epilepsy is a main factor preventing people from seeking treatment.

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The World Health Organization reports this neurological disease affects people of all ages in all walks of life. Wikimedia Commons

She says low cost, effective medication to treat the disease is largely unavailable in poor countries as are the number of specialists competent to deal with this brain disorder.

ALSO READ: Researchers Identify Gene Associated with Sudden Death in Epilepsy

“For example, if you look in low and middle-income countries, there is only one neurologist per one million population,” Dua said. “Now, that is definitely insufficient to provide care for all people with epilepsy.  What it means is that we need the non-specialists, the primary care doctors to take care for people with epilepsy.”

Dua says WHO has the tools and evidence-based guidelines that show epilepsy can be successfully treated in primary health care.  She says pilot programs introduced in Ghana, Mozambique, Myanmar, and Vietnam are making huge inroads in closing the epilepsy treatment gap. (VOA)

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Efforts to Contain Spread of Ebola Virus to Remain Elusive Unless Cycle of Violence is Broken

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus

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Ebola workers enter a house to decontaminate the body of a woman suspected of dying from Ebola, before the vehicle of the health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain elusive unless the vicious cycle of violence in the region is broken.  Latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2284, including 1540 deaths and 637 survivors.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response Ibrahima Soce Fall says there has been good progress in scaling up operations to contain the spread of the deadly ebola virus in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Fall has just returned from a three-month stint in Butembo, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in DR Congo.  He says last week there were 79 new Ebola cases, 27 fewer than the previous week.  He says infections are continuing to fall in the major urban centers of Butembo and Katwa thanks to coverage in all 33 health areas.

At the same time, he tells VOA the operation is running into difficulty in the rural areas of Mabalako and Mandima, the new hot spots of the epidemic.

Ebola, Violence, WHO
Congolese security forces attend the scene after the vehicle of a health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

“The access is more challenging.  In the same area, we have some villages where you have both ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) armed group coming from Uganda and some Mai Mai groups,” said Fall.  “So, access needs to be assessed on a daily basis to be able to move up to the intervention.  So, it is really important to take into account this very volatile situation.”

Eastern DRC has been politically unstable since 1998.   There are an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says new displacements are occurring mainly in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North and South Kivu.  More than 100 armed groups reportedly are engaged in sporadic fighting in the region.

Fall says constant and skilled negotiations with the armed groups are needed to gain access to these volatile areas.

“The outbreak started there last year and spread to other areas,” Fall said. “So, it is important to break this vicious cycle to contain very quickly the situation in Mabalako and Mandima, where we have more than 55 percent of the cases coming from.”

Also Read- Americans Arrive in Canada Seeking Affordable Prices for Insulin

Fall says it will be exceedingly difficult to contain the virus if more money is not immediately forthcoming.   He says $98 million is needed to support the government-led response to defeat ebola.  To date, he says less than half that amount has been received. (VOA)