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Study: Mother-to-baby transmission of COVID-19 during pregnancy, delivery is rare

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Study: Mother-to-baby transmission of COVID-19 during pregnancy, delivery is rare
Mother-to-infant transmission of COVID-19 is rare, according to a new study. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Mother-to-infant transmission of COVID-19 during pregnancy and delivery is rare, according to a study published Monday by JAMA Network Open.

In Ontario, Canada, just 4% of babies born to women known to be infected with the coronavirus during pregnancy tested positive after birth, the data showed.

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About 6% of those whose mothers were infected during pregnancy tested positive for the virus within two months of birth, the researchers said.

The findings suggest that "the recommendation that mothers known to be infected with [the coronavirus] not be separated from their infants after delivery is safe," study co-author Tiffany Fitzpatrick told UPI in an email.

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"It appears that handwashing and face masks can adequately reduce viral transmission, and the risk of transmission through breastfeeding also appears to be low," said Fitzpatrick, a post-doctoral fellow at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn.

Women and newborns infected with COVID-19 are believed to be at risk for serious health complications during and after birth, including pre-eclampsia and premature delivery, according to a study published in April in JAMA Pediatrics.

However, among infected pregnant women in the United States, transmission to babies has been rare, a study published last October showed.

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For this study, Fitzpatrick and her colleagues tracked COVID-19 test findings for nearly 97,000 babies born in Ontario between Feb. 1 and Oct. 31 last year.

Just under 6,200 of the newborns, or about 6%, were tested for the virus at birth, and about 1,700, or 2%, were screened during their first two weeks of infancy, the researchers said.

Of those tested, 177, or roughly 3%, were positive for the virus, the data showed.

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Among the more than 82,000 delivering mothers included in the study, 156, or 0.2%, tested positive for COVID-19 within two weeks of delivery.

In 156 positive mothers, six infants, or 4%, were known to have caught the virus during or immediately after birth.

Another nine, or about 6%, had positive test results during the first two weeks of infancy.

"The risk of infection among mothers and infants will change in response to community transmission -- it is very likely that as cases increase in the community, we can expect to see more cases among mothers, and possibly their infants," Fitzpatrick said.

"This study was conducted during the first wave, when community transmission was fairly low in Canada," she said.

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