Nearly 100 children dead as world’s 2nd-largest Ebola outbreak surpasses 800 cases

Monday, February 11, 2019
By Paul Martin

Health officials have raised alarm over the high number of children infected.

By Morgan Winsor
Feb 11, 2019

The second-largest, second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history has claimed the lives of nearly 100 children.

At least 97 children, 65 of whom were younger than 5 years old, have died from Ebola virus disease in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo since the outbreak was declared there Aug. 1, according to a press release from Save the Children, a charity supporting the fight against the current epidemic.

“We are at a crossroads,” Heather Kerr, Save the Children’s country director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said in a statement Sunday. “If we don’t take urgent steps to contain this, the outbreak might last another six months, if not the whole year.”

A total of 811 people have reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the country’s northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. Among those cases, 750 have tested positive for Ebola, which causes an often-fatal type of hemorrhagic fever, according to Sunday night’s bulletin from the country’s health ministry.

The growing outbreak has a case fatality rate of nearly 63 percent. There have been 510 deaths thus far, including 449 people who died from confirmed cases of Ebola. The other deaths are from probable cases, the ministry said.

The number of new cases spiked in January, from about 20 a week to more than 40, according to Save the Children, which expressed concern about misinformation in the local community and mistrust of the medical response.

“It is paramount to convince communities that Ebola is an urgent and real concern,” Kerr said. “People have disrupted funerals because they didn’t believe the deceased had succumbed to the virus. Aid workers were threatened because it was believed they spread Ebola. We have to scale up our efforts to reach out to the vocal youth and community leaders to build trust and to help us turn this tide. Treating the people who are sick is essential, but stopping Ebola from spreading further is just as important.”

Global health organizations have raised alarm over the high number of children infected in the ongoing outbreak. Children, who are at greater risk than adults of dying from the virus, account for about 30 percent of all cases, including 116 who were younger than 5, according to a Feb. 7 report from the World Health Organization, the global health arm of the United Nations, which has deemed the risk of transmission “very high” at the national and regional levels, while the risk globally remains low.

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