Friday August 23, 2019

Children Under Five at Higher Risk of Ebola Outbreak; Represent One-third of Current Total Cases

The World Health Organization reports more than 2,500 cases of Ebola in eastern Congo, including nearly 1,670 deaths. 750 of those cases are children

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FILE - A woman and her children wait to receive Ebola vaccinations, in the village of Mabalako, in eastern Congo, June 17, 2019. VOA

The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is affecting more children than normal.  The United Nations Children’s Fund says kids represent nearly one-third of current total cases, compared to about 20 percent in previous outbreaks.

The World Health Organization reports more than 2,500 cases of Ebola in eastern Congo, including nearly 1,670 deaths. The U.N. Children’s Fund says about 750 of those cases are children.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says children under age five are especially hard hit, and account for 40 percent of infections.  She notes an exceptionally high number of children are succumbing to the virus.

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FILE – Mwamini Kahindo, an Ebola survivor working as a caregiver to babies who are confirmed Ebola cases, holds an infant outside the red zone at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, DRC, March 25, 2019. VOA

“The case fatality ratio or the number of cases who die among this group of under-fives is 77 percent.  That is compared with 67 percent among the general population, which means that young children are at higher risk than adults,” she said.

Mercado says Ebola affects children very differently from adults.  Consequently, she says they need specialized care, both medically and psychologically.

She says children infected with Ebola receive the same drugs as adults, but they require smaller dosages. She says they also require treatment for diarrhea, against intestinal parasites and special nutritional feeding.

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A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019 in Goma. VOA

She says children who are separated from their parents or orphaned from Ebola need longer term psycho-social care and support to help them get over their loss.

ALSO READ: WHO: Rise of Ebola Epidemic in DRC’s Goma Could be a ‘Game Changer’

“Virtually all of them need help to counter the debilitating effects of stigma and discrimination that taints children affected by Ebola.   They need to be accepted, valued and loved by their families and communities,” she said.

ln Congo, Mercado says dedicated pediatricians provide special medical care for children in Ebola treatment centers.  She says every child is assigned a dependable caregiver who also is an Ebola survivor and therefore immune to the disease. (VOA)

Next Story

Researchers in Uganda Launch Ebola Vaccine Trial for Two Years

The new vaccine is manufactured by U.S.-based Janssen and Janssen company

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FILE - A Ugandan health worker prepares to administer the Ebola vaccine to a man in Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kasese district, Uganda, June 16, 2019. VOA

Eight hundred health workers involved in the fight against the Ebola virus are receiving doses of a two-part vaccine. Researchers who launched a trial this week for a new Ebola vaccine say the new vaccine trial will take two years to complete.

Dr. Juliet Mwanga, director of the Mbarara Research Center, said the vaccine combines antigen — a substance that induces an immune response in the body — from the Ebola virus, a common adenovirus, and the vaccinia Ankara vaccine. The new vaccine is manufactured by U.S.-based Janssen and Janssen company.

“This J and J vaccine aims at prevention — primary prevention before you have contact at all,” said Mwanga. “And the other difference, as I said, it has two parts. So, you’re given the first dose, and 56 days later, you get another dose, which boosts your immunity. So, hopefully it works for a longer time.”

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Deo Bakulu has been washing his hands every chance he gets since Ebola reached eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s main city of Goma. VOA

Currently, Uganda is using an Ebola vaccine by the Merck pharmaceutical company, but Mwanga said they need to try out new vaccines, too. Uganda’s move is motivated by its proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 1,800 people have died from an Ebola outbreak that began a year ago.

ALSO READ: Medicare Uses Breakthrough Gene Therapy to Cover Some Blood Cancers

Dr. Kimton Opio, the coordinator of the trial, said the vaccine is being tested on 800 health care workers and front-line support workers who meet a few basic requirements. “Someone has to be 18 years and over,” he said. ” Then, of course, they have to be able to sign the  [consent] form. Then they must not have been vaccinated with Ebola before, or they must have not suffered from Ebola before.”

The researchers are hopeful the vaccine, if effective, will help Uganda and neighboring countries that have endured Ebola outbreaks. Uganda has seen no new cases of Ebola in recent weeks. But, health officials have been on high alert since June, when two adults and a five-year-old boy who had crossed into Uganda from the DRC died of the virus. (VOA)