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BACKGROUND: There is little data on the burden or causes of epilepsy in developing countries, particularly in children living in sub-Saharan Africa. METHODS: We conducted two surveys to estimate the prevalence, incidence and risk factors of epilepsy in children in a rural district of Kenya. All children born between 1991 and 1995 were screened with a questionnaire in 2001 and 2003, and those with a positive response were then assessed for epilepsy by a clinician. Active epilepsy was defined as two or more unprovoked seizures with one in the last year. RESULTS: In the first survey 10,218 children were identified from a census, of whom 110 had epilepsy. The adjusted prevalence estimates of lifetime and active epilepsy were 41/1000 (95% CI: 31-51) and 11/1000 (95% CI: 5-15), respectively. Overall two-thirds of children had either generalized tonic-clonic and/or secondary generalized seizures. A positive history of febrile seizures (OR=3.01; 95% CI: 1.50-6.01) and family history of epilepsy (OR=2.55; 95% CI: 1.19-5.46) were important risk factors for active epilepsy. After the second survey, 39 children from the same birth cohort with previously undiagnosed epilepsy were identified, thus the incidence rate of active epilepsy is 187 per 100,000 per year (95% CI: 133-256) in children aged 6-12 years. CONCLUSIONS: There is a considerable burden of epilepsy in older children living in this area of rural Kenya, with a family history of seizures and a history of febrile seizures identified as risk factors for developing epilepsy.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





396 - 404


Child, Confidence Intervals, Electroencephalography, Epilepsy, Female, Humans, Incidence, Kenya, Logistic Models, Male, Odds Ratio, Prevalence, Retrospective Studies, Risk Factors, Surveys and Questionnaires