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Newborn dies after severe COVID-19 case forces mom to deliver nearly 4 months early

Coronavirus around the world: April 8, 2020
Coronavirus around the world: April 8, 2020

A newborn died on April 5 in the U.S. when a mother with COVID-19 went into premature labour after experiencing extreme symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease.

The child’s death was the direct result of the mother’s coronavirus diagnosis, as it caused her to deliver the child nearly four months early, according to heath officials in Baton Rouge, La.

Medical test results from the child are still being determined, reports the Baton Rouge Advocate. Even if the child doesn’t test positive for the virus, the death will still be counted as COVID-19-related, said East Baton Rouge coroner Dr. Beau Clark in a statement. 

READ MORE: Pregnant people not at increased risk for coronavirus, experts say

At a press conference on Monday, Clark said the incident is a “very tragic case” and that if the mother hadn’t had an acute case of COVID-19 then her pregnancy wouldn’t have been disrupted.

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The mother was on a ventilator, had shortness of breath and hypoxia — when the body is deprived of oxygen —  according to Clark. Health officials will not be providing details on the mother’s identity. 

COVID-19 can cause low oxygen levels that, in some cases, can lead to fatal outcomes and impact the chances of survival for the child, Clark said. Some babies can survive when born 22 weeks early, however, many don’t.

Pandemic pregnancies prove stressful as COVID-19 questions remain unanswered
Pandemic pregnancies prove stressful as COVID-19 questions remain unanswered

As of April 6, Louisiana has more than 14,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 500 deaths, according to the Advocate.

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Babies and the outbreak

There have been cases of babies dying of COVID-19 before, including the March 28 death of a nine-month-old in Illinois, along with an infant in Connecticut who died after testing positive. 

In early February, a baby in Wuhan, China — the original epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak — tested positive 30 hours after a mother with a confirmed case of the virus gave birth. It was unclear whether the disease was transmitted in the womb or after birth, reports the BBC.

There is currently no evidence that suggests mother-to-child transmission is possible through childbirth when an individual is in their third trimester, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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It’s also unlikely that COVID-19 can be passed through breast milk, reports the agency. If a mother has a positive case of COVID-19, they should isolate from everyone except the baby and take extra precautions with the child to avoid passing on the virus. 

READ MORE: ‘The unknowns’ — Giving birth amidst the worldwide coronavirus pandemic

This can include washing hands often, wearing a mask and ensuring the environment is clean. Mothers who are too sick to breastfeed can feed the child with formula or, if using a breast pump, make sure it’s thoroughly cleaned. 

Pregnant women and their risk

While pregnant women are at greater risk of getting the flu, there is currently no evidence to suggest they are more likely to contract COVID-19, Dr. Brett Belchetz, a Toronto-based emergency room physician and CEO of telehealth company Maple, said in a previous Global News report.

There is “no evidence that COVID[-19] infection is passed on to the fetus or has any effect on the fetus,” he said. 

However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says immunologic and physiologic changes that pregnant people experience could impact their susceptibility to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

READ MORE: Pandemic pregnancies prove stressful as COVID-19 questions remain unanswered

“Pregnant women should take all the same precautions as the general public, such as avoiding sick people and public gatherings, frequently washing hands and sanitizing surfaces,” Belchetz added.

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Clark said at the press conference on April 6 that investigators will be looking into whether the virus could have been transmitted in the womb, which could have “huge ramifications” on understanding this illness.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Laura Hensley

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