A baby girl born last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is defying the odds in a big way. Not only was she born from a mother who was cured of the disease, but she has also so far tested negative for the virus. To date, she is only one of two babies in the world known to have survived after being born to an Ebola victim.
Little Sylvana was born on January 6 weighing just over eight pounds. It wasn't long before that that Sylvana's mother was admitted to the Ebola treatment centre in the city of Beni. Fortunately, she was treated and cured of the disease, and doctors monitored her baby until it was time for her to return and give birth. Incredibly, Sylvana and her mother are the first to have both survived the deadly disease.
According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak was declared in DRC in August of last year. Since then, there have been 577 confirmed cases and 377 deaths from the deadly disease. Fortunately, 220 people were treated and have recovered, and more than 56,500 have since been vaccinated.
According to data collected by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), the survival rate for Ebola victims aged one year and under is 17 per cent. For pregnant women, it is 45 per cent. There is a 21-day incubation period for Ebola, and although baby Sylvana has been tested twice for the disease - each time coming back with negative results - she will continue to be monitored. Sadly, in a recent case in the region, a baby born to a mother cured of Ebola also tested negative at birth, but tested positive six days later. The child, unfortunately, did not make it.
Despite the numbers, doctors like Dr. Séverine Caluwaerts, a gynecologist with MSF, is hopeful. She said that Sylvana's birth is a sign of hope.
"Before, the message was that your baby will always get Ebola. Now we can say we have had cases where the baby has survived, is healthy and without problems," she said.
There is more good news as well. Leading scientists believe there is a breakthrough on the way when it comes to treating Ebola. Drug trials are currently underway, which may lead to effective and licensed treatments. According to Jeremy Ferrar, infectious diseases expert, this could "turn Ebola from something that really is feared and horrific in communities to something that is preventable and treatable."
Ferrar added it could also remove the need for isolation units and treat the disease at home.