Fears Coronavirus Could Be Contracted in the Womb after Day-Old Baby in Wuhan Tests Positive

A one-day-old baby in China has tested positive for the new coronavirus, prompting fears it could spread from mother to infant in the womb.

The baby was born in Wuhan, the central Chinese city in Hubei province. This is the epicentre of the outbreak, which has killed 496 people over 24,607 cases. The unnamed child was diagnosed 30 hours after birth, making it the youngest recorded person to have caught 2019-nCoV.

The mother of the baby was diagnosed with coronavirus before giving birth.

The state-run People's Daily China newspaper shared a photo that appeared to show the baby in an incubator.

An infant in #Wuhan has tested positive for the novel #coronavirus just 30 hours after birth, said the city's children's hospital, raising concerns that infection could be contracted in the womb pic.twitter.com/j8FIdqKgAS

— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) February 5, 2020

Experts believe the baby caught the virus through what is known as "vertical transmission," AFP reported via the state-run CCTV outlet. This is when a pathogen, like a virus, passes from a mother to her baby in the time immediately before or after birth.

This can happen through the placenta, in the breast milk, or when the mother and baby come into direct during or following labor. HIV, for instance, can pass from mother to baby in this way.

However, these fears have not been confirmed. On Monday, China's state-run press agency Xinhua reported that a mother infected with the new coronavirus gave birth to a healthy child who tested negative for the bug.

Earlier this week, health officials of China's southwestern province of Guizhou said in a statement that a 1-month-old baby in China has been diagnosed with 2019-nCoV.

Most of the cases of 2019-nCoV have been in adults. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week detailing the cases of 425 people with the virus showed patients were aged 59-years-old on average, and in the range of 15 to 89.

Over 25 countries have confirmed cases of the virus since it emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year, including the U.S. as shown in the infographic by Statista below. It is not yet known to have spread to Africa or South America.

coronavirus, cases, countries, statista,
An infographic showing the countries where cases of 2019-nCoV have been confirmed.

Experts are still learning about the new virus which is thought to have jumped from animals to humans before spreading person-to-person. There are no specific treatments for the condition.

As the bug is a virus, antibiotics—which kill bacteria—do not work to prevent or treat it, the World Health Organization (WHO) states.

Instead, a patient's symptoms must be managed, which may involve hospital treatment in the severe cases.

Symptoms include a fever, a cough, and shortness of breath, which may appear between two or 14 days after a person is exposed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states.

Asked how worried he was about the outbreak, Michael Head, senior research fellow at the U.K.'s University of Southampton, told Newsweek: "My personal view is that the outbreak can still be contained, but the situation can change so quickly.

"The key concern is if the virus becomes common in low and lower-middle income countries, for example in sub-Saharan Africa. Their health systems are fragile and if they have confirmed cases in significant numbers, they will be unlikely to cope and spread could be exacerbated."

baby, incubator, stock, getty
A stock image shows a baby in an incubator. A baby in Wuhan is reported to have been diagnosed with coronavirus. Getty