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Announcement: National Epilepsy Awareness Month --- November 2010

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Epilepsy, which affects approximately 2 million persons in the United States, is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures (1). Delayed recognition of these seizures and subsequent inadequate treatment increases the risk for additional seizures, disability, decreased health-related quality of life, and, in rare instances, death (2--4). Although epilepsy can occur at any age, the condition is more likely to begin among children aged <2 years and adults aged >65 years (5). The number of cases among older adults is increasing as the U.S. population ages (3). A multistate study by CDC indicated that approximately 1% of adults have active epilepsy, and many might not be receiving the best available medical care (1).

"Get Seizure Smart," this year's theme for National Epilepsy Awareness Month, focuses on the importance of seizure recognition and first aid. During the month of November, the Epilepsy Foundation will launch an interactive website (http://www.getseizuresmart.org) that will provide educational materials and other resources to support this effort.

Many persons do not know how to respond appropriately to a person having a seizure. For example, although many law enforcement and emergency response personnel are able to respond successfully to readily recognizable forms of seizures and intervene appropriately, some might not recognize seizures in persons they encounter who appear to be confused, unable to communicate, or exhibit behaviors inappropriate to time and place (6). Such persons might not obey directives and might become involuntarily combative, resulting in inappropriate arrest, possible injury, and, in some cases, death (7,8).

The Epilepsy Foundation, in partnership with CDC, is continuing a national education and outreach program to educate and train law enforcement officers, police cadets, and emergency response personnel to increase their recognition of seizures and to protect the safety and rights of persons having seizures, while also ensuring the safety of first responders. The centerpiece of this effort is the First Responders Training Program, consisting of two modules. The first, the Law Enforcement Training Curriculum, has reached approximately 55,000 law enforcement personnel through class and train-the-trainer sessions. It is available online (http://www.train.org) through the Public Health Foundation training network. The second, a module designed specifically for fire and emergency medical service personnel, is undergoing pilot testing by Epilepsy Foundation affiliates. It includes a facilitator's guide, a participant manual, and a video, A Guide to Seizure Management for Emergency Medical Responders, all of which is available online at the same web address (http://www.train.org).

Additional information about epilepsy and the national program is available from the Epilepsy Foundation by telephone (800-332-1000) or online (http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org). Information in Spanish is available online (http://www.fundacionparalaepilepsia.org) or by telephone (866-748-8008).

References

  1. CDC. Epilepsy surveillance among adults---19 states, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2005. MMWR 2008;57(No. SS-6).
  2. Engel JR Jr. A greater role for surgical treatment of epilepsy: why and when? Epilepsy Curr 2003;3:37--40.
  3. Begley CE, Famulari M, Annegers JF, et al. The cost of epilepsy in the United States: an estimate from population-based clinical and survey data. Epilepsia 2000;41:342--51.
  4. Gilliam F. Optimizing health outcomes in active epilepsy. Neurology 2002;58(Suppl 5):S9--20.
  5. Hirtz D, Thurman DJ, Gwinn-Hardy K, Mohamed M, Chaudhuri AR, Zalutsky R. How common are the "common" neurological disorders? Neurology 2007;68:326--37.
  6. Epilepsy Foundation. Law enforcement/EMS response to seizures. Background: inappropriate response to seizures. Landover, MD: Epilepsy Foundation; 2010. Available at http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/about/professionals/emergency/inappropriateresponse.cfm. Accessed October 25, 2010.
  7. Protection & Advocacy, Inc. The lethal hazard of prone restraint: positional asphyxiation. Oakland, CA: Protection & Advocacy, Inc.; 2002. Available at http://www.pai-ca.org/pubs/701801.pdf. Accessed October 25, 2010.
  8. Epilepsy Foundation. Law enforcement/EMS response to seizures. Summary of selected cases involving excessive force used by police and EMTs in responding to persons with seizures. Landover, MD: Epilepsy Foundation; 2008. Available at http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/about/professionals/emergency/restraintcases.cfm. Accessed October 25, 2010.


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