Purpose: To ascertain the prevalence and pattern of epilepsy and to characterize and quantify knowledge, attitude, and practice (KAP) toward epilepsy among the people of the state of Kerala, which is distinguished from the rest of India by a high level of literacy and health awareness of its population.
Methods: We conducted a door-to-door survey covering the entire population of 238,102 people residing in 43,681 households in a semiurban area of central Kerala. The screening questionnaire administered by medical social workers had a sensitivity of 100% for identifying persons with epilepsy. Neurologists examined all the individuals suspected of having epilepsy. We evaluated KAP toward epilepsy among 1,118 subjects (439 males and 679 females; mean age, 33.3 years; age range, 15-85 years) from households without epilepsy in the study area.
Results: Through a three-phased survey, we ascertained 1,175 cases (616 males and 559 females) with active epilepsy, providing a crude point prevalence ratio of 4.9 cases per 1,000 people and an age-adjusted prevalence ratio of 4.7 cases per 1,000 population. The highest age-specific prevalence rate of 6.5 per 1,000 occurred in the 10- to 19-year-old age group. Sex-specific prevalence rates did not significantly differ. The proportion of generalized and localization-related epilepsies was 58.8% and 30.6%, respectively. Ninety-nine percent of the KAP respondents had read or heard about epilepsy. Thirty-one percent and 27% thought epilepsy was a hereditary disorder and a form of insanity, respectively. About 40% of the respondents felt that individuals with epilepsy could not be properly educated or employed. Eleven percent would object to their children having contact with epileptic children.
Conclusions: The prevalence and pattern of epilepsy in central Kerala, South India, do not differ from that of developed countries. Although the awareness of epilepsy among the people of Kerala was comparable to that of developed countries, the attitudes were much more negative. The need for educating the people of Kerala on epilepsy and for incorporating an adequate knowledge of epilepsy in the school curricula cannot be overemphasized.