WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- On Wednesday, a children’s hospital in Wuhan reported that an infant born to a coronavirus patient mother tested positive for the virus too.
- Although it is believed that the virus was passed from mother to child during pregnancy, an expert says infection was more likely contracted after birth.
- While there are about 494 people who have already died from the Wuhan coronavirus with 24,000 others infected, the new virus seems to affect very few children.
A newborn baby in a Wuhan children’s hospital was found to have contracted the deadly coronavirus 30 hours after being born to a mother who is also a coronavirus patient, reported The South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Wednesday.
The baby’s case considers the possibility that the 2019-nCoV can be transmitted via vertical transmission- meaning, the virus can be passed from a mother to her child during pregnancy or during childbirth or through breast milk.
Senior physician Zeng Lingkong of Wuhan children’s hospital neonatal department told SCMP that everyone should be concerned about the possible new transmission route of the new virus, at the same time, advised pregnant women to keep away from infected patients.
Currently, the infected baby’s vital signs are stable, reports China state broadcaster CCTV.
Despite the report, no evidence has ever been reported that the two other coronaviruses- severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) can be passed from person to person via vertical transmission.
Epidemiologist Stephen Morse of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University told Business Insider that an in-utero transmission is highly unlikely.
“It’s more likely that the baby contracted the virus from the hospital environment, the same way healthcare workers get infected by the patients they treat,” Morse said.
While other viruses like HIV and Zika can be passed through the blood in-utero, newborns can also contract HIV through exposure to the mother’s bodily fluids while being born. Morse explained that since coronavirus is a respiratory infection not transmitted via blood, the baby must have been infected during birth by inhaling saliva droplets from the mother.
So far, the coronavirus has infected very few children since the outbreak was first reported.
Between December 31 and January 22, no cases of children below 15 years old were recorded. However, only 2 cases below 15 were reported in the last two weeks.
Nevertheless, the coronavirus seems to affect the older population more.
According to a recent study of 99 Wuhan coronavirus patients, the average age of the infected people was 55.5 while another related study of 41 cases said the average age of those who have died from the virus was about 75, although most had other health issues including high blood pressure, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.