Thursday, 26 March 2015

Ebola May Hit Young Children Hardest, Study Finds


Babies, toddlers get sick faster and die sooner than older children and adults, study finds

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Ebola appears to do its damage faster in young children than it does in adults, a new study reports.

Young children infected with Ebola during the current West African epidemic developed symptoms and required hospitalization sooner than adults. They also died days earlier than did adults with the infection, according to research from the World Health Organization's Ebola Response Team.

"Anybody who develops Ebola needs the best care promptly, but these data suggest that things move even more quickly in young children," said report co-author Christopher Dye, the WHO's director of strategy.

"We need to be vigilant so we can get young children into care quickly," he added.

Findings from the study are published in the March 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Until now, little has been known about how Ebola affects children because kids are less likely to become infected with the deadly virus, Dye said.

For example, there have been just over 3,800 reported cases of Ebola in children 14 and younger during the current epidemic, compared with more than 11,000 cases in those 15 to 44 and more than 4,500 cases in adults 45 and older, according to the WHO's latest figures.

It's likely that children aren't exposed to Ebola as much as adults, because they don't care for people stricken with the virus and they don't participate in burial rituals, which are two of the most frequent means of Ebola transmission, Dye said.

But the West African epidemic has gone on long enough that the virus has made its way to young children and adolescents, causing death and debilitating illness.

WHO researchers found that, once infected, children succumb to Ebola at a much more rapid pace than adults:

  • Children 15 and younger typically are infected for about seven to nine days before Ebola's symptoms surface. It takes about 10 days for symptoms to surface in those 16 to 44, and 11 days for adults older than 45.
  • Infants end up hospitalized sooner, with children younger than 1 year requiring intensive medical care within about three days of symptom onset, compared with about four to five days for everyone else.
  • Death comes sooner for young children infected with Ebola, within about five to six days of symptom onset for children 4 and younger and about seven days for kids between 5 and 6 years old, according to the study. Adolescents and adults typically die within eight to nine days of symptom onset, the researchers found.

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