Doctors from France analyzed 176 registered cases of neonatal coronavirus infection and found that about 70% of children were infected in the hospital or from family members, but also many cases of intrauterine infection and during childbirth.
Review authors, published in the journal Nature Communications, note that cases of COVID-19 are quite rare in newborn babies and infants, but doctors and expectant mothers should be aware of the potential risks. The review includes cases of infection that were confirmed by at least one PCR test result, or antibodies to coronavirus were found in children.
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In most cases (about 70%), newborns were infected in the hospital after giving birth, through infection from mothers or medical personnel. In about a third of cases, intrauterine transmission of the virus was confirmed.
In half of the infected children, the infection was asymptomatic. Among newborns with severe symptoms, 64% had changes in the lungs, 52% had breathing problems, 44% had fever, 36% had vomiting, diarrhea, and feeding problems. A small number of young patients (18%) developed neurological symptoms – irritability, lethargy, and muscle tone disorders. Almost all children subsequently fully recovered, three babies included in the review died from causes unrelated to the coronavirus.
Analyzing the possibility of infection, the authors of the review did not identify additional risks during breastfeeding – the virus is not transmitted through milk. But in cases where the mother is contagious, the risk of contact transmission in the first few days after birth increases fivefold. Therefore, postpartum separation of the affected mother and baby and expression feeding may be warranted.
In cases where this is not possible, a woman must very carefully follow all precautions: wear and regularly change a mask, use an antiseptic containing alcohol.