Children under five dying at higher rate in Congo Ebola epidemic – WHO

Friday, May 31, 2019
By Paul Martin

By Stephanie Nebehay
May 31, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) – Children under five infected with Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are dying at a higher rate than other patients as their parents shun special treatment centres, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Three out of four of the under-fives, or 77%, are succumbing to the disease, compared with 57% for older youngsters and 67% for all infected people, the U.N. body said in a new analysis of the epidemic – the world’s second worst on record.

Many under-fives are not taken to Ebola treatment centres, known as ETCs, where survival rates are markedly higher, but instead visit multiple healthcare facilities that are not as well-equipped to provide treatment or isolation, the WHO said in a weekly update.

This “may be out of fear of being far from home and without the support of family members”, but could help spread the virus, a form of hemorrhagic fever, it said.

“All cases that may not be adequately isolated, including children under five-years of age, may pose a considerable transmission risk to healthcare workers, patients, and members of the community,” it said.

Children under five are also less likely than older youth to be included on lists of possible contacts exposed to the disease, who require surveillance or vaccination, it said, calling for improved tracing and monitoring.

“More work needs to be done to reduce fear and misunderstanding of ETCs and to reduce any other barriers to access, with a special focus on this age group,” it said.

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