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Newborns Are at Low COVID Risk

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Overall, babies have a low risk of severe COVID-19 infection, and transmission from mother to newborn is unlikely, new research suggests.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from all babies under 29 days old who had COVID-19 and had to be admitted to hospitals across the United Kingdom between the beginning of March and the end of April, at the peak of the first pandemic wave in the United Kingdom.

Only 66 babies required hospital treatment for COVID-19 infection in this period, which is the equivalent of one in 1,785 births, or 0.06% of births.

Nearly half (45%) of the babies who developed severe COVID-19 infection were from Black, Asian or minority ethnic groups, and 24% were born prematurely. These rates are higher than in the typical U.K. birth population.

Of the 66 babies, 17 were suspected to have caught COVID-19 from their mother in the first seven days after birth. Seven of the 17 babies developed COVID-19 despite being separated from their mother immediately after birth, the investigators found.

That finding supports guidance to keep mother and baby together even when the mother is suspected or known to have COVID-19, according to the authors of the study published online Nov. 9 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

Six babies are believed to have contracted COVID-19 while in the hospital, the study authors reported. None of the 66 babies died from COVID-19, but one did die from another cause.

At the time of data analysis, nearly 90% of the babies had fully recovered from the infection and had been discharged from the hospital, according to the report.

The study also found that newborns with severe COVID-19 are more likely to require intensive care or breathing support (36%) than older children (13%).

"Parents, and expectant parents, are understandably worried about their babies becoming ill with COVID-19," said study co-lead author Chris Gale, from the School of Public Health, Imperial College London.

"This study will hopefully provide some reassurance, as it suggests severe COVID-19 infection in newborns is very rare. Most babies only develop mild symptoms when infected with the virus and make a full recovery. This research also supports U.K. and international guidance to keep mother and baby together even when the mother is known or suspected to have COVID-19," Gale said in a college news release.

"Although this study did show that six babies may have contracted hospital-acquired COVID-19, this data was from the beginning of the pandemic, and infection control measures on neonatal and pediatric units have improved dramatically over the past six months," Gale explained.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on newborns and COVID-19.

SOURCE: Imperial College London, news release, Nov. 9, 2020

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