RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — COVID-19 is impacting the tiniest people on the planet — newborn babies. But doctors say cases are rare and that most babies recover.
“When babies do have symptoms, we will see things like fever, lethargy, inability to keep food down, diarrhea, cold symptoms like a runny nose, that sort of thing,” said Dr. Marie Ambroise Thigpen, Medical Director of Neonatology at UNC REX Hospital.
Babies up to a year old make up 1 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state.
According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, more than 6,000 babies have tested positive for the virus. Of the state total, 600 of those were in Wake County.
UNC Health, Duke Heath and WakeMed require all pregnant women be tested before giving birth. If they have the virus, the baby will get tested, too.
But just because a mother is COVID-19 positive, that doesn’t guarantee the baby will have it.
“We really think at this point, based on what research we have and what we’ve looked at at the CDC, is that infection happens after the baby is born,” Dr. Thigpen explained.
The UNC Medical Center and UNC REX Hopsital have each had one newborn test positive. Duke Health wasn’t aware of any cases involving newborns, and WakeMed didn’t give specifics, but said there aren’t many.
At the start of the pandemic, Dr. Thigpen said a mom or baby that is COVID-19 positive would be separated. Now, they’re kept together.
“We found its better to keep the babies with their parents so they can bond and parents can learn care,” she said. “And of course, once they get discharged, they’re gonna go home to that environment anyway and potentially be exposed.”
Her advice for new parents is to “Continue all of the safety measures that our health services have suggested; hand washing, wearing masks, distancing, and avoiding large crowds.”