Mon, 12 Jun 2017
UGANDA - Consumption of contaminated pork has been linked to the rising cases of epilepsy in Uganda.
Epilepsy is a condition that is characterised by recurrent seizures or convulsions. It is locally referred to as "Ensimbo".
The country has an estimated 3.3 per cent of people living with the disease, according to statistics from the Uganda Epilepsy Association.
Although the causes often vary among individuals, experts have warned that the Taenia Solium, commonly known as the tapeworm in pigs, cannot be ruled out.
In an interview with New Vision, Dr Richard Idro a peadiatric neurologist at Mulago Hospital explained that accidental ingestion of pork contaminated with eggs of Taenia Solium, was the main way through which the parasites enter the body and then finally to the brain.
“If the pork is not well prepared and somebody eats it part of the tape worm’s eggs and larvae go into the body and proceed to the brain,” said Dr Idro.
He explained that once in the brain, the larvae causes neurocysticercosis, a parasitic disease of the nervous system which can lead to severe complications in the brain, including seizures; coma or even death.
Dr Idro who is also the chairperson of professional development at the Uganda Medical Association revealed that the epilepsy resulting from the tapeworm is a growing public health problem world over.
“Most children in areas where there is poor hygiene are prone because they will probably play near garbage pits or these pigs. Adults may get it directly by eating half cooked pork, but we are finding that some of the epilepsy cases in adulthood actually start from childhood,” said Dr Idro.
However, experts are also quick to point out that the risk factors that may lead to epilepsy include family history, complications during pregnancy, lack of antenatal care and skilled birth attendants at birth and head injuries among others.
In her new research titled epidemiology of epilepsy in demographic surveillance systems in Iganga and Mayuge districts, Dr Angelina Kakooza, also a pediatric neurologist at Mulago Hospital found that the prevalence rate of epilepsy was 10.3 per 1,000 persons.
“When you have these risk factors with a combination of parasites, chances of getting epilepsy are high,” Dr Kakooza told New Vision.
Asked on what extent the pork tape worm was particularly risk, Dr Kakooza the connection between Teania Solium (pork tapeworm) and epilepsy are well documented.
She asserts in similar studies conducted in other countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, exposure to the tapeworm was associated with a seven times risk of getting adult epilepsy.
In her own study, Dr Kakooza is quick to note that it was hard to determine to what extent the tape worm was a risk, since the majority of the population in her study area were Muslims and pork eating or pig rearing was a no-go area.
“These results, however, do not mean that is not a risk factor for epilepsy in our country. Not at all,” explains Dr Kakooza.
She regretted that the disease comes with a lot of stigma which forces victims into isolation.
“Even those who seek care first run to the traditional healers for treatment because they think it a curse to do with supernatural causes. Of the 241 persons with epilepsy only 51 reported use of anti-epileptic drugs while nearly half of them reported using traditional medicines,” Dr Kakooza says.
She stressed that epilepsy can be prevented treated and called for the need to ensure constant availability of anti-epileptic drugs and public education programmes.