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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
Epilepsy 'spirits' myth endures
Epilepsy kills more than 1,000 people a year
Epilepsy kills more than 1,000 people a year
A small proportion of people surveyed about epilepsy continue to believe that the condition is due to being possessed by evil spirits.

The National Society for Epilepsy carried out the survey to reveal a wider ignorance of the condition.

They found many people still do not know how to help when they see someone having a seizure.

The belief that possession is the root cause of a seizure still holds sway in small numbers of people.

The Bible does have references to the "casting out of evil spirits", describing victims whose symptoms have been interpreted as matching those of epileptics.

Nationwide, 2% of people quizzed felt that evil spirits were the cause of epilepsy - but this rose to 4% and 5% in northwest England and London respectively.


A similar percentage believes wrongly you can catch epilepsy by touching someone who has it.

The majority of people can recognise some features of a seizure - but a quarter believed that restraining the convulsing patient was a good idea, when in fact it is not.

Another 30% thought that something should be put in the patient's mouth, ostensibly to stop him or her biting down on the tongue.

This is also incorrect advice, say experts.

The National Society for Epilepsy is targeting police forces, schools, universities and colleges with an information campaign.

Margaret Thomas, from the society, said: "There are still 1,000 epilepsy-related deaths each year and one way to reduce this is to increase awareness amongst people with the condition, the general public, and members of the emergency services.

"Police officers, in particular, need to be aware that a person with epilepsy needs to take their medication regularly in order to maintain seizure control.

"Withholding medication can be life-threatening."

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