People lining up to take the epilepsy test at Gulu regional mental health unit
By Chris Ocowun
HUNDREDS of people, including children and elderly patients with signs of epilepsy, have flooded Gulu regional mental health unit for neurological examination.
The tests will be done by five neurological doctors from Germany and Austria. The doctors hope to examine over 1,000 epileptic patients in Gulu, Moyo, Adjumani and Kitgum districts.
Neurocysticercosis is a leading cause of seizures and epilepsy in the developing world.
The head of the neurological doctors, Andrea Winkler, yesterday told journalists at the health unit that they would spend two weeks conducting tests in northern Uganda.
“We are here to examine patients and decide on the treatment. About 300 of those found with epilepsy fits will be taken to Mulago Hospital for Computerised Tomography (CT) scan,” she said.
Winkler said the prevalence of neurocysticercosis was high in sub-Saharan African countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.
“We want to know the prevalence of those who suffer from neurocysticercosis, which is caused by the pork tapeworm in the brain of a person. You can get cysticercosis from infected pigs, poor hygiene and undercooked pork,” Winkler explained.
“The symptoms of this illness are caused by the development of characteristic cysts, which most often affect the central nervous system (neurocysticercosis), skeletal muscle, eyes, and skin. Many individuals with cysticercosis never experience any symptoms,” Winkler added.
According to Winkler, cysticercosis is caused by the dissemination of the larval form of the pork tapeworm, taenia sodium.
She said when the eggs of taenia sodium are ingested by humans, they hatch and the embryos penetrate the intestinal wall and reach the bloodstream. The formation of cysts in different body tissues leads to the development of symptoms, which vary depending on the location and number of cysts.
Winkler disclosed that humans are the host for taenia sodium, saying they may carry the tapeworm in their intestine, often without symptoms.
She said neurocysticercosis is treatable using anthelmintic drugs. Winkler added that they are working in collaboration with Gulu University faculty of medicine to carry out neurological examination of patients with epilepsy.
She said cysticerrcosis can be prevented through public education, avoidance of raw or undercooked pork and good personal hygiene among other ways.
Paul Aluma, a psychiatric at Gulu regional mental health unit blamed the high rate of epilepsy attacks in the region to the LRA war.