Ebola more deadly for children under 4 years

Young children more at risk than adults as the mean incubation period, the average time from infection until the onset of symptoms, is shorter

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 27 March 2015

According to a study, more attention should be paid to children as they have a relatively high risk of death compared to adults (Credit: UN)

The Ebola virus is more deadly for young children as compared to adults, a recent research says. Scientists led by the Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) analysed data on the outbreak of the deadly disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to arrive at the conclusion.

The finding published in The New England Journal of Medicine says that the case fatality rate (CFR) was highest among those 4 years of age or younger.

Young children are more at risk than adults as the mean incubation period (the average time from infection until the onset of symptoms) was the shortest, with the time ranging from 6.9 days in children under one year to 9.8 days in those aged between 10 and 15. The time from when the symptoms showed till hospitalisation and subsequent death was also shorter.

Also, children were more likely to have fever than adults though other symptoms like pain in the abdomen, chest, joints, or muscles; difficulty in breathing or swallowing and hiccups were less likely.

According to the study, more attention should be paid to children because of the shorter incubation period and the relatively high risk of death, especially among those younger than 5 years (when compared to older children). The study says it is important to examine children for early signs of the disease and give them treatment appropriate to their age.

According to Professor Christl Donnelly of Imperial College London, who is also a co-author of the study, “These findings show that Ebola affects young children quite differently than adults, and it’s especially important that we get them into treatment quickly. We also need to look at whether young children are getting treatment that’s appropriate for their age.”

WHO urges vaccination scale up in Ebola-hit countries

There is a growing risk of outbreak of diseases like measles and pertussis in Ebola-affected countries and it must be countered by scaling up routine immunisation activities, according to WHO.
“We are calling for the intensification of routine immunisation services in all areas, and for mass measles vaccination campaigns in areas that are free of Ebola transmission,” Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, director of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals at WHO, said.

The Ebola outbreak, which has infected some 24,000 people and killed around 10,000, has also reduced vaccination coverage in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as health facilities and staff are focusing on halting the outbreak.

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