As 5-Year-Old Boy Gets Tested For Ebola in NYC, Children in West Africa Continue to Feel the Effects of the Disease — UPDATE
UPDATE: Following a scare in New York City, authorities have confirmed a 5-year-old boy does not have Ebola, despite exhibiting symptoms that are characteristic of the disease. The boy, monitored at New York's Bellevue Hospital — the same facility that is currently treating Ebola victim Dr. Craig Spencer — had recently traveled to the Bronx from Guinea, which has been plagued with the disease.
The boy, however, will not be released from the hospital yet. The NYC Department of Health and Human Services said he will undergo additional tests to confirm the negative test as a precautionary measure.
EARLIER: New York City may have its second Ebola patient, but this time it's a young child. Law enforcement officials said that a 5-year-old boy is being tested for Ebola at Bellevue Hospital Center after returning from West Africa with symptoms. The boy had just returned from Guinea along with five family members, who are all being quarantined inside their apartment. The current Ebola outbreak, which has a fatality rate of around 50 percent, has claimed nearly 5,000 lives total so far, and according to the United Nations, children are some of the most effected. But not in the way you think.
According to law enforcement sources, EMS workers were called to the 5-year-old boy's Bronx home on Sunday. The child was vomiting and had a fever of 103 degrees, two common symptoms of Ebola. Neighbors described the child to the New York Post as looking "very weak" and "really out of it." The health workers, who wore hazmat suits, carried the boy out of his apartment and transferred him to Bellevue, where he is currently in isolation and being evaluated. Officials are currently trying to determine whether he could have infected anyone else. The city's health department issued the following statement:
As a further precaution, the health department’s team of disease detectives has begun to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk.
While the boy awaits his diagnosis in New York City, the outbreak in West Africa continues to ravage thousands, many of whom are children. While the disease continues to claim lives, the United Nations Children's Fund reveals that children are being affected in other ways.
Mortality Rates Had Been on the Decline in Africa
Before the current Ebola outbreak, the under-5 child mortality rate in Liberia had fallen from 110 per 1,000 live births in 2003 to 75 per 1,000 births in 2012. Similarly, the rate of maternal and infant deaths had also been on a drastic decline after additional health care was provided for pregnant and birthing women in public health facilities. More births were being attended by health professionals.
How Ebola Disrupted That Progress
However, after the Ebola outbreak, the number of births attended by a health worker has dropped from 52 percent to 38 percent. Now UNICEF reports that the outbreak has severely crippled the health systems in West Africa and the agency fears that it might undo all of the progress made with child mortality.
Though it does not appear that children are more susceptible or vulnerable to Ebola (they only make up 22 percent of all cases), children are succumbing to other diseases, like measles, because most health facilities have been taken over for Ebola wards.
Other Effects of Ebola on Children
Besides health risks, children surrounded by the Ebola outbreak are also suffering from severe psychological trauma. Not only are they experiencing firsthand widespread sickness and death, many children are losing multiple relatives to the disease. Upon her return from Liberia, UNICEF Crisis Communications Chief Sarah Crowe, who said that "the numbers of orphans are rising" in West Africa, described the scene to a press conference:
Children are deeply distressed from having seen things that even adults find difficult to understand. People in astronaut suits, looking like crop sprayers, coming to take sick people away, or their parents ... so you have that deep psychological impact.
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