Rwanda: Scientists to Investigate High Prevalence of Epilepsy in Southern Rwanda

An investigation is underway by scientists to unravel the reasons behind the alarming rates of epilepsy in the Southern province, with the ultimate goal of formulating effective prevention strategies.

Epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, has spurred concern due to its escalating prevalence.

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In an effort labeled “Comprehending the Elevated Prevalence of Epilepsy in Rwanda through an In-depth Probe of Risk Factors and Etiologies,” researchers are delving into the core triggers of this troubling health issue.

Statistics reveal that an overwhelming 85 percent of epilepsy cases are concentrated in low- and middle-income nations. The impact is felt particularly acutely in Sub-Saharan Africa, where epilepsy’s prevalence hovers at 1.6 percent. The situation in Rwanda is even more dire, with a prevalence of 4.8 percent.

The groundbreaking study, unveiled last week at King Faisal Hospital, is anticipated to offer profound insights. Its primary objective is to not only quantify the prevalence, risk factors, and etiologies of epilepsy in the rural reaches of southern Rwanda, but also to ascertain whether geographic variations stem from differing causes.

The research paper emphasizes that deciphering these distinctions is pivotal for crafting tailored epilepsy prevention policies. A consortium of over ten scientists underscored the significance of their work in the statement, noting that trained enumerators and neurologists would spearhead epilepsy screening efforts.

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A parallel endeavor was previously executed in 2021 by eight researchers in the Northern Province. A substantial cohort of 2,681 individuals, of whom 56.14 percent were female, underwent screening. Among the positively identified cases, 128 individuals received an epilepsy diagnosis, affirming a lifetime epilepsy prevalence of 47.7 percent.

This study, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, USA, further validated the pronounced prevalence of epilepsy in rural domains. Within the Rwandan context, a community-based survey conducted door-to-door in three Musanze district villages indicated a striking 49.3 percent prevalence, underscoring the higher rates in rural enclaves compared to urban settings.

Dr. Menelas Nkeshimana, head of the Ministry of Health’s workforce development department, implored the community to discard erroneous beliefs attributing epilepsy to witchcraft.

He reiterated the medical community’s stance that epilepsy is not induced by poison or sorcery. Dr. Nkeshimana emphasized that ongoing research, such as the ongoing study, is vital for comprehending the disorder’s roots and forging effective paths toward treatment and prevention.


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