WHO Campaign Against Epilepsy

By Nancy Steinbach

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

The World Health Organization has announced projects in four countries as part of its campaign against the disease epilepsy. The countries are China, Argentina, Senegal and Zimbabwe.

The four projects will find out the number of people suffering from epilepsy. Medical experts will train health care workers to identify and treat patients with the disease.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which nerve cells suddenly release a large amount of electrical energy. Victims react by suffering what are called seizures. They may close their eyes, fall down and move their muscles uncontrollably for a few minutes. Or they may appear confused for a few minutes or act strangely.

The World Health Organization says epilepsy is the world's most common brain disorder. At least fifty-million people suffer from it. Eighty-five percent of them live in developing countries. Two-million people develop epilepsy every year.

The W-H-O says any kind of brain injury or disease can lead to epilepsy. It also says common causes of epilepsy in developing countries include poor care during childbirth and a lack of healthy food. There is no cure, but epilepsy can be treated. The W-H-O says up to eighty percent of the people with epilepsy could lead normal lives if they were treated.

The W-H-O says most epilepsy sufferers get no treatment. For example, its office in Latin America says five-million people in the area suffer epilepsy. It also says more than three-million of them are not treated. A recent study in thirty Latin American countries showed that none have national policies for epilepsy. In Africa, only one doctor for every four-million people is able to treat brain disorders.

People with epilepsy fear that other people will find out they have the disease. The W-H-O campaign wants to educate the public about epilepsy, and improve the lives of those with the disease. Officials say their aim is to improve treatment, prevention and social acceptance of the disease.

The W-H-O believes the four projects will show governments that it is possible to help people with epilepsy. Medical experts will use the information gained from the projects to develop programs around the world.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach.

Voice of America Special English