Objective: We evaluated beliefs about, attitudes toward, and stigma associated with epilepsy in four districts of central Laos.
Method: For this study, 83 people with epilepsy, 83 family members, and 166 matched villagers in Vientiane Province were interviewed.
Results: From patients to families to villagers, there existed a significantly increasing gradient of misbeliefs. Dubbed locally as "mad pig disease," epilepsy was viewed as having a supernatural origin by 25-42% of respondents, a life-threatening disease by 60%, a disease transmissible by consumption of pork meat by 10-21%, and a disease transmissible by contact with patients' saliva by 14.5% of patients and 44% of villagers (P<0.01). Stigma was high. People thought that they should avoid contact or sharing meals with patients (15% of patients, 62% of family members, P<0.001), and that persons with epilepsy should not get a job, get married (29 and 42%, P<0.016), or raise children (33-42%).
Conclusion: Wrong beliefs may lead to stigma and hamper access to or compliance with modern epilepsy treatment. In traditional countries, education is the cornerstone of epilepsy management.