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Children May Be at Lower Risk for Ebola Virus Disease

Based on available data, small number of pediatric cases; signs and symptoms are nonspecific

MONDAY, Oct. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children may be at lower risk of Ebola virus disease (EVD), but physicians should be aware of the signs and symptoms, according to a viewpoint piece published online Oct. 17 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Georgina Peacock, M.D., M.P.H., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues reviewed information on the impact of the EVD outbreak on children.

The researchers note that EVD outbreaks have typically occurred in low-resource settings and, consequently, detailed information about pediatric cases has not been collected systematically. Based on previous EVD outbreaks, there were low numbers of pediatric EVD cases. Children may present with nonspecific signs and symptoms of EVD, initially including fever, headache, and myalgia, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. In the current outbreak, case-fatality is estimated at 70.8 percent, including 73.4 percent in children younger than 15 years. Pediatric health professionals should be suspicious for EVD if a child has compatible symptoms and a recent history of travel to an affected country.

"Based on previous outbreaks and limited data from the current epidemic to date, children may be at lower risk for EVD than adults," the authors write. "Therefore, health care professionals should also consider other common infectious diseases prevalent in West Africa when evaluating ill children from this region, while maintaining a high level of suspicion for EVD."

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