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Coronavirus: Newborn becomes youngest person diagnosed with virus

The baby in Wuhan may have contracted the virus in the womb, or immediately after birth.

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A Chinese newborn has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus just 30 hours after birth, the youngest case recorded so far, state media said.

The baby was born on 2 February in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.

The baby's mother tested positive before she gave birth. It is unclear how the disease was transmitted - in the womb, or after birth.

Only a handful of children have come down with the virus, which has killed 563 people and infected 28,018.

State media outlet Xinhua reported news of the infection late on Wednesday. 

It added that the baby, who weighed 3.25kg at birth (7lbs 2oz), was now in a stable condition and under observation.

How could the baby have been infected?

Medical experts say it could be a case where the infection was contracted in the womb.

"This reminds us to pay attention to mother-to-child being a possible route of coronavirus transmission," chief physician of Wuhan Children Hospital's neonatal medicine department, Zeng Lingkong, told Reuters.

But it is also possible that the baby was infected after birth from having close contact with the mother.

"It's quite possible that the baby picked it up very conventionally - by inhaling virus droplets that came from the mother coughing," Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, told Business Insider.

Is it common for children to get the virus?

Very few children have tested positive in this recent outbreak, which is consistent with other coronavirus outbreaks in recent history including Sars and Mers.

A report by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) said the median age of patients for the current outbreak is between 49 and 56 years, adding that cases in children "have been rare".

Similarly, during the Mers outbreak in 2016, the World Journal of Clinical Paediatrics said the virus was rare in children, though it added that the "reason for [this] low prevalence is not known".

A six-month old baby in Singapore is known to have tested positive for the new coronavirus, as well as an eight-year-old from Wuhan who is currently in Australia.

The virus has spread overseas, with 25 nations confirming a total of 191 cases, although there has so far been only two deaths outside mainland China.

The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most people infected are likely to fully recover - just as they would from a flu.

What else is happening as a result of the virus?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

Its chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Wednesday appealed for $675m (£520m) to fund a three-month response plan.

The vast majority of the funds would go to nations that need help to protect against the virus. Some 500,000 masks and 40,000 respirators would be sent to 24 countries.

Other recent developments include:

  • India has cancelled all visas for Chinese citizens. They will have to apply for new visas and will be reassessed
  • Ten more people on a quarantined ship docked in the Japanese port of Yokohama have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total to 20. About 3,700 people on the ship are on lockdown after a previous passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive
  • Around 3,600 people onboard another cruise ship docked in Hong Kong have also been confined to the ship after three previous passengers were found to have the virus
  • Taiwan has banned all international cruise ships from docking at the island, says a Reuters report. It has also banned the entry of mainland residents
  • Saudi Arabia has suspended the travel of its citizens and non-Saudi residents to China
  • A group of almost 350 Americans airlifted out from Wuhan have been placed under quarantine in two military bases in California
  • Car maker Tesla warned that the virus could delay deliveries within China of its Model 3 vehicle

Chinese officials say they have stepped up efforts to control the outbreak, particularly in Hubei province where Wuhan is located. Two hospitals have been speedily built and 11 public venues transformed into makeshift wards.

A Wuhan official on Wednesday warned there still was a shortage of beds and medical equipment and said authorities were looking to convert other hotels and schools in the city into treatment centres.

Millions in Hubei and Zhejiang provinces have been told only one person per household can go outside every two days.BBC

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