Coronavirus infections have hit more than half-a-million since November, fuelling fears for the safety of our loved ones. The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) spreads on tiny droplets of bodily fluid that are released when coughing or sneezing.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can also be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as skin or doorknobs.
Scientists in China have now reported a new mode of transmission that can affect pregnant women and their children.
According to the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, a study of 33 pregnant women in China found three babies that were infected with the virus at birth.
All women were from the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, where the coronavirus first appeared last year.
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The study’s authors wrote in their report: “Because strict infection control and prevention procedures were implemented during the delivery, it is likely that the sources of SARS-CoV-2 in the neonates’ upper respiratory tracts or anuses were maternal in origin.”
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All three babies were delivered by cesarean because their mothers were experiencing pneumonia-like coronavirus symptoms.
One of the infants was delivered early at 31 weeks due to fetal distress and had to be resuscitated.
The other two experienced symptoms of lethargy and fever, and one suffered from pneumonia.
Both infants were treated at an intensive care unit and tested negative for coronavirus on the sixth day of their life.
It is crucial to screen pregnant women and implement strict infection control
Lingkong Zeng et al.
The premature baby experienced the most critical symptoms, including pneumonia, shortness of breath and sepsis.
Luckily, the baby’s condition was stabilised at an ICU unit.
The baby tested negative for coronavirus on the seventh day of its life. All three babies survived.
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Although very rare, the Chinese scientists believe pregnant women need to be screened to stop the spread of COVID-19 onto their children.
Health experts have previously suggested babies can become infected during labour or through the placenta – an organ un the uterus that nourishes the fetus through the umbilical cord.
The authors of the new study said: “Therefore, it is crucial to screen pregnant women and implement strict infection control measures, quarantine of infected mothers, and close monitoring.”
The scientists did, however, note a very small number of infected pregnant women has been studied so far.
They said: “With the sharp increase in the number of infection, the number of pregnant women and children with COVID-19 is also on the rise.
“However, only 19 neonates born to affected mothers have been investigated, and to our knowledge, no information on early-onset infection in newborns has been published in previous studies.”
The coronavirus attacks the respiratory systems with flu-like symptoms and pneumonia.
Although most people will experience mild symptoms, pregnant women, the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions are at risk of developing critical symptoms.
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