On March 14, a newborn baby in London tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic. The infant is the youngest case in the UK and likely the youngest ever worldwide. Previously, a baby in China tested positive at just 30-hours old.
The mother of the child was taken to the North Middlesex University hospital with suspected pneumonia and the positive result for SAR-CoV-2 came after she gave birth. At this time it's unclear if the baby contracted the virus from contact post-birth or while in the womb. It is also unclear if the child developed COVID-19, the condition generated by the virus.
"Two patients at North Middlesex University hospital have tested positive for coronavirus. One has been transferred to a specialist center and one is being treated in an isolation room," North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust said in a statement, reports The Guardian.
"The safety of our patients and staff is our top priority," the statement continued, "so in following guidance from Public Health England, we are regularly deep cleaning the areas where the patients are cared for and staff who were in close contact with these patients were advised to self-isolate."
So far, there is no evidence that the new coronavirus can be transmitted in the womb. A case study published today in Frontiers in Pediatrics by researchers in China suggests that becoming infected during pregnancy does not immediately infect the child. The report documented four pregnant women in Wuhan who were infected with COVID-19 and gave birth to healthy babies that tested negative. It's important to note that this is a case study, which typically does not seek causation or explanation, so is not proof that in-uterus transmission doesn’t happen, but it does imply that a mother who has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 isn't guaranteed to pass it onto their child.
The risk to children is believed to be minimal, in line with previous epidemics like SARS and MERS, which were caused by similar viruses. Population studies suggest that children appear to either experience milder infections or show no symptoms, and like SARS no deaths have been reported of any children due to the new coronavirus. SARS also had no reported cases of pregnant women passing transmitting the virus in the womb.
At the time of writing, there have been 169,387 documented cases of COVID-19 globally and 6,513 deaths.
[H/T: The Guardian.]