The following information is provided by Dr. Andrew T. Pavia, University of Utah Health and Primary Children’s Hospital. Dr. Pavia is the George and Esther Gross Presidential Professor and the Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah and Director of the Hospital Epidemiology Program at Primary Children’s Hospital.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that was first identified in December in Wuhan, China, has rapidly spread around the world. As of this writing, more than 100,000 cases have been diagnosed worldwide. Cases have been detected in 18 states in the United States. It is almost certain that it will spread to every state in the U.S. within a few weeks, and people have many questions, particularly about children.
There has not been a lot of focus on COVID-19 in children. We are learning more about this new illness every day but now can give a pretty good picture of the disease in children.
You can think of this as you would any cold or flu. If your child has difficulty breathing, is not able to keep down fluids or is very limp or non-responsive you should seek care immediately. There are good sources of information you can use to help you decide. Utah Department of Health has an information line 800-456-7707. You can also use Intermountain Healthcare’s Connect Care online or through the mobile app.
All Connect Care providers are trained in screening specifically for COVID-19. Connect Care uses a video chat function to be seen by an Intermountain caregiver.
First, we should all take precautions to avoid infection in the first place. Wash hands frequently with soap and water, or if that’s not an option, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Clean commonly touched surfaces in your house. Stay home when sick and cover your cough with tissue or cough into your elbow.
If someone in the household is sick, all of these steps become even more important, especially paying attention to cleaning your hands after touching the ill person, handling their tissues, etc. In addition, if age appropriate, the ill person should sleep in a separate bedroom. Avoid sharing household items with the patient. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items. After the patient uses these items, you should wash them thoroughly. Wash bed sheets and clothing, especially if they have contact with mucous, blood or stool.
In general, pregnant women are at increased risk of infection and severe complications from viral infections like influenza or related coronaviruses, like those that cause SARS and MERS. However, data from COVID-19 patients have not strongly suggested that this is the case for the current situation. While we do not yet know all the ways that COVID-19 affects pregnant women, it is still important for mothers to protect themselves by washing their hands and avoiding people who are sick.
We have not yet discovered any proof that pregnant women can transmit the COVID-19 virus to babies in the uterus. Scientists and physicians are still studying this to see if it can happen, but for now the risk does not seem high.
We still do not know much about young babies with COVID-19 infection, but severe disease seems to be very rare. There are no reported infant deaths from COVID-19.
The COVID-19 virus has not been found in breastmilk from mothers infected with COVID-19. Transmission from a mother with COVID-19 to her baby seems to be more likely by coughing and sneezing. Nevertheless, the decision for a mother with COVID-19 to breastfeed her baby should be discussed with her doctor.