Ebola medical team develops guidelines for treating infected children

Shown is the leadership team at an Ebola treatment unit (ETU) in Port Loko, Sierra Leone, in 2015. From the left: Usman Koroma, Indi Trehan, MD, Cecilia Rose English and Francis Gaima. Usman and Francis headed the Sierra Leonean clinical team; Trehan, of Washington University, and English led the ETU and the Partners In Health team.

When the Ebola virus outbreak erupted in West Africa in 2014, children infected with the virus — particularly those under age 5 — faced overwhelming challenges.

In the height of the epidemic, exhausted health-care workers found themselves with few options to care for the afflicted, including the virus’s littlest victims. Patients with Ebola were given large amounts of fluid to drink to counteract the dehydrating effects of diarrhea and vomiting. Many times, that was all that could be done for them.

As the outbreak waned in the winter of 2015, however, a fresh army of health-care workers at the largest Ebola treatment unit (ETU) in Port Loko, Sierra Leone, began exploring how best to treat children with the virus and improve their chances of survival. Their aim: to establish a protocol for treating children with Ebola — a protocol the researchers believe will provide a basis for treating children during future outbreaks They suggest an aggressive approach that includes giving children fluids intravenously; treating other possible infections; feeding them highly fortified food; and greatly increasing the amount of bedside care they receive.

“We know Ebola is going to come back. But the next time an Ebola treatment unit is opened, the physicians, nurses and other health-care providers shouldn’t have to start from scratch,” said Indi Trehan

Indi Trehan, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is the study’s first author. “ Our goal in publishing our findings is so they can have something solid to start with. It may not be perfect — we invite others to build on it — but it’s from our collective experience. This is how we think children with Ebola should be cared for,” Trehan said

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