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National Epilepsy Week: Fostering Inclusivity

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Epilepsy, a neurological condition marked by recurring seizures, impacts millions globally. In South Africa, more than 500,000 people are believed to have epilepsy. During National Epilepsy Week, let’s explore its prevalence, demographics, recent advancements, and workplace inclusivity associated with this disorder.

Occurrence and Population Characteristics


  • Epilepsy is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa.
  • Causes of epilepsy in the region encompass genetic factors, head trauma, brain conditions (like stroke), infections (such as meningitis and AIDS), and developmental disorders.
  • Around 1 out of every 100 individuals in South Africa suffers from epilepsy.
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  • Focal onset seizures are common (25% of patients), often linked to neurocysticercosis or ischemic strokes.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures are predominant (70-85% of patients).
  • Regrettably, up to a quarter of patients do not receive adequate anti-seizure medication (ASM) treatment.
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Recent Developments in Epilepsy Research and Treatment

Advantage in Drug Treatment:

  • Comparative effectiveness trials of second-generation drugs have been conducted.
  • New pharmaceutical formulations for emergency use have been introduced.
  • Results achieved with the newest medications show promise.


  • Despite progress, stigma and misconceptions persist.
  • The Intersectoral Global Action Plan (IGAP) aims to reduce stigma, improve understanding, and enhance the quality of life for people with epilepsy

Workplace Inclusivity and Support

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Disclosure and Legal Rights:

  • South Africans are not obligated by law to reveal their epilepsy status in the workplace.
  • Employers should take into account medical evaluations, job demands, and applicable laws when making accommodations for employees with epilepsy

Creating and Inclusive Workplace:

  • Education: Raise awareness among colleagues about epilepsy.
  • Reasonable Accommodations: Adjust work tasks or environment as needed.
  • Anti-Stigma Campaigns: Promote understanding and acceptance.
  • Support Networks: Connect employees with epilepsy to resources and peer support.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Allow for medical appointments or recovery time.
  • Training: Educate staff on seizure first aid.
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As we commemorate National Epilepsy Week, let us work together to create workplaces that embrace diversity, foster understanding, and provide unwavering support for individuals with epilepsy. By promoting awareness, dispelling myths, and advocating for inclusivity, we can ignite the flame of potential for all those living with epilepsy in South Africa and beyond.