Ebola is more likely to be fatal for children under five, an international team of scientists led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
The team analyzed data on Ebola cases in children under 16 during the current outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and found that young children who get the disease have a lower chance of surviving it, although the rate of infection is lower in children than adults.
As of March 2015, nearly 4,000 children under 16 have been affected by Ebola in the current epidemic, around a fifth of all confirmed and probable cases, according to the World Health Organization.
The study found that Ebola has affected young children most severely, killing around 90 percent of children aged under a year and around 80 percent of children aged one to four years who are infected.
Older children are much more likely to survive the disease. It has killed 52 percent of infected children aged 10 to 15. For adults aged 16 to 44, the case fatality rate is 65 percent.
The incubation period, the time between becoming infected and showing symptoms, was 6.9 days in children under a year and 9.8 days in children aged 10 to 15.
Younger children also had shorter times from the onset of symptoms to hospitalization and death, they found.
There were also differences in the symptoms experienced by children. Children were more likely to have a fever when they first see a doctor, and less likely to have pain in the abdomen, chest, joints, or muscles; difficulty breathing or swallowing; or hiccups.
"These findings show that Ebola affects young children quite differently to adults, and it's especially important that we get them into treatment quickly. We also need to look at whether young children are getting treatment that's appropriate for their age," said Professor Christl Donnelly of the Imperial College London and a co-author of the study, in a statement.
The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.