According to the CDC, infants may be at higher risk for severe forms of the disease than older children. But the data is still quite limited, and what scientists know about these infections is based on a handful of case reports.
The CDC said babies are most likely exposed to the virus through respiratory droplets from their mothers or other caregivers or visitors. There are a few limited reports that they may be exposed to the virus just before or even while at work, but the science about it is still unclear, the federal agency said.
As there is still little information about the frequency of these cases, doctors should assume these infants are infected. These infants should be isolated from other healthy infants and should be temporarily separated from their mothers to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. If the mother’s test results are negative, the CDC says that temporary separation can end.
It is not clear when the optimal time to test is, but the CDC suggests that they first be tested 24 hours after birth and if the test is negative, doctors should re-test them the next day. In some parts of the country where available tests are limited, the CDC recommends that these newborns be prioritized. Newborn babies do not need a negative test to get out of the hospital.
If infants are infected, some of the symptoms of Covid-19 are similar to what doctors have seen in adult patients – fever, cough, breathing problems, and stomach problems like diarrhea and vomiting. Infants can also appear lethargic. The CDC says the extent to which a Covid-19 infection has contributed to these symptoms is still unclear, as these same symptoms can also be seen frequently in infants for other reasons.
As with older children, the majority of infants who have tested positive for Covid-19 tend to be asymptomatic, or they have a mild form of the disease and recover without complications, according to the CDC. However, there have been cases where the infant has had to be ventilated.
If there is no room to separate an infected mother from the child, the CDC suggests that the mother use a face mask and practice good hand hygiene. The CDC does not recommend masks for any child under the age of 2.
Health care providers should use protective clothing and masks when handling infants.