At our partner hospitals across the country, our physicians and providers are working hard to ensure expectant mothers and their newborns are safe as the coronavirus continues to spread. Premature and ill newborns are some of the world’s most fragile patients, and as such we are taking extra precautions to ensure their health and wellbeing. How does COVID-19 affect newborns and infants? Here’s what we know so far.
Newborns and COVID-19
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children as a whole do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19, and those who become sick tend to experience more mild symptoms than adults. However, the same may not be true for newborns and fragile infants. An initial study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Journal found that, while most children do tend to have more mild symptoms than adults, infants in particular may be more vulnerable to infection.
According to Dr. Constance Andrejko, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Onsite Neonatal Partners, “We have learned from China’s experience that children less than one year of age were at higher risk for severe or critical illness compared to other children. Premature infants also may be at an increased risk because of their immature immune system and potential for other medical problems, such as underdeveloped lungs.” So far, the number of children with confirmed COVID-19 cases has been relatively small compared to adults, and much more information is needed to truly understand the virus’s impact on the newborn population.
Special precautions to protect infants
In a previous post, we covered the risks faced by pregnant mothers and the specific guidelines any infected persons should follow to keep others safe. There is currently no definitive evidence that the virus can be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, but there are reported cases of a newborn testing positive for the disease. It is unclear whether the virus was passed to these babies before, during, or after delivery. The CDC also reports that there have been a small number of problems with pregnancy or delivery in babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19, but it is not clear these outcomes were related to maternal infection.
If you test positive for COVID-19, or are a person-under-investigation (PUI) at the time of birth, our providers will take specific precautions to protect your child from contracting the disease. This may mean immediately separating you from your child and placing them in a negative pressure room or similarly controlled environment. Dr. Andrejko adds that, “even after your child is discharged from the hospital, you may still need to practice isolation in your home in order to protect them.” It is vital that you follow the direction of your physicians in order to keep your baby healthy and safe.
It is not clear whether the results of the AAP study, conducted in China, will be similar to the outcomes we see in the United States. “We will continue diligently researching this outbreak and putting policies in place at our partner hospitals in order to keep our families safe,” says Dr. Andrejko. We hope that you will continue to review the information published by the CDC and AAP, and encourage you to ask your neonatologist how to best protect your baby safe during this time.