Infant Diagnosed With Coronavirus, Heightening Fears Of Mother-To-Child Transmission

A passenger walks past a notice for passengers from Wuhan, China displayed near a quarantine station at Narita airport on January 17, 2020 in Narita, Japan. J
Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images

Doctors at China’s Wuhan Children Hospital claim that pregnant mothers infected with the coronavirus might be able to pass the infection to their unborn children, Reuters reports.

Wuhan broadcaster CCTV first reported the claim. Doctors reported a February 2 case of an infected mother giving birth to a newborn that was later confirmed to have the virus. The baby reportedly exhibited stable vital signs and did not have a cough or fever. However, he allegedly experienced shortness of breath and showed signs of infection in his chest and abnormalities in liver function.

In another case, a baby was born healthy on January 13. The newborn’s nanny was later diagnosed with the coronavirus, followed by the mother days later. On January 29, the baby began to show symptoms of the virus.

According to the chief physician of Wuhan Children Hospital’s neonatal medicine department, Zeng Lingkong, the source of the virus remains unclear in this case.

“Whether it was the baby’s nanny who passed to the virus to the mother who passed it to the baby, we cannot be sure at the moment. But we can confirm that the baby was in close contact with patients infected with the new coronavirus, which says newborns can also be infected.”

The existence of the coronavirus was first reported by Chinese physician Dr. Li Wenliang, who died Thursday. According to reports from Chinese state media, Wenliang’s death was due to the coronavirus.

“Our hospital’s ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was unfortunately infected with coronavirus during his work in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic,” reads a hospital statement, per CNN. “He died at 2:58 am on Feb 7 after attempts to resuscitate were unsuccessful.”

Wenliang reportedly noticed the first symptoms of the virus on January 10 and was later diagnosed on January 30 ⁠ — a week before his death. Thus far, most of the deaths from the coronavirus have been young children or the elderly, making the death of the 34-year-old an unusual case.

According to a Science Alert report, there are an estimated 75,815 individuals that were infected in Wuhan as of January 25, 2020. The number is vastly larger than the 6,000 people reported by Chinese authorities, which will no doubt continue to drive accusations that the Chinese government is hiding the real numbers behind the outbreak.

Regardless, Gabriel Leung, a scientist from the University of Hong Kong, who headed the recent research, claims that the discrepancy between the estimates could be due to “several factors,” including the possibility that Chinese officials were only counting cases confirmed by laboratory results.