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Nation Hosts First-ever Epilepsy Day
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Tomorrow is the first International Epilepsy Care Day, an event proposed by the China Association Against Epilepsy (CAAE) in 2006.

Promotional campaigns are expected to take place in 35 cities across 16 provinces.

While China will pioneer this year's efforts, the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) will promote the event to the world next month, when its annual International Epilepsy Symposium will be held in Singapore, Zhang Hui, the CAAE's vice-secretary general, told China Daily.

The day's theme is reducing the stigma attached to the disease and encouraging patients to step out of the shadows.

"For them, the greatest pain is psychological rather than physical," Wang Yuping, director of Beijing Xuanwu Hospital's epilepsy center, said.

The stigma comes from the patients themselves and society as a whole, Wu Jianzhong, a professor at the Beijing Neurosurgery Research Institute, said.

Research has shown that 89 percent of epilepsy patients and 76 percent of their family members have experienced some level of humiliation, he said.

Social misunderstandings are just as prevalent, Wu said.

A study conducted by his institute found that 87 percent of parents said they would oppose their child marrying an epileptic, 57 percent were against their children studying or playing with them and 53 percent said epileptics should not be allowed to work like "ordinary" people.

Li Li, an epilepsy sufferer from Guangzhou, said she has experienced the acute pain caused by such myths and misunderstanding.

She said she had been rejected from school and fired from work after years of trying to hide her condition.

The prejudice stems from a lack of public awareness about the disease, Wang said. Many sufferers, for example, simply give up because they think epilepsy is incurable.

Others, meanwhile, turn to unregistered clinics for "magic pills", in the belief that they will completely eradicate the condition, he said.

About 70 to 80 percent of patients' epilepsy attacks can be controlled after three to five years of continual medication, Wang said.

"About half of those who experience not a single attack within that period are considered to be fully recovered.

"Some 20 to 30 percent of the other half are suitable for surgery, and our recovery rate afterwards exceeds 80 percent," Wang said.

Among the world's 50 million epileptics, 40 million live in developing countries. According to the CAAE, about four million of China's nine million sufferers "have not received rational or proper therapy".

(China Daily June 27, 2007)

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