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Can coronavirus pass from mother to baby? Maybe, but experts need more research


Chinese doctors have encountered what could be the first case of mother-to-child transmission of a mysterious viral outbreak, but experts are warning against premature fear.

Doctors at the Wuhan Children Hospital, situated in the epicentre of the outbreak, delivered a baby on Feb. 2 whose mother has the virus, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Thirty hours after birth, the infant tested positive for the same illness.

Relatively little is known about the novel coronavirus at this point. There is no standard diagnosis, treatment or vaccine. The flu-like bug is contagious — possibly before symptoms even appear — and is able to spread person-to-person, but scientists still aren’t sure exactly how contagious it is.

The case involving a newborn has raised concerns about the ever-changing potential of the epidemic.

At this point, there’s not enough information about the newborn in China know what to make of it, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist based out of Toronto General Hospital.

“Clearly we need to keep an open mind, as we’ve only known about this virus for less than two months and it would not be the first time that we’ve learned something unique about a virus during the course of an epidemic,” he told Global News.

Bogoch pointed to a development made during the height of the Zika virus, when researchers discovered that it could be transmitted sexually, unlike previously thought.

“This was a fascinating development in transmission,” he said. “I’m not saying this coronavirus can be transmitted sexually, but it’s a good example of why we have to be open-minded about the biology of this virus.”

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Zika is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but a pregnant woman can pass the virus to her fetus both during pregnancy or around the time of birth, which can cause serious birth defects and other complications.

A number of other viruses have the ability to pass through the placenta and infect a fetus.


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