Doctors in Israel say 25-week stillborn baby likely died from COVID-19

abortion, hand, baby, born alive

In a tragic first, a preborn baby has died from COVID-19 in Israel. 

A 29-year-old mother arrived at the Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital after not feeling her 25-week baby move for an extended period of time. She had been suffering from fever and other COVID-19 symptoms prior to her arrival. The hospital was unable to locate a heartbeat, and the baby was delivered stillborn. The baby and placenta were later tested and found to be positive with a coronavirus infection. 

“The fetus was infected through the placenta and with a very high degree of certainty, [we can say] died due to coronavirus,” said the hospital’s head of Infectious Disease Department, Dr. Tal Brosh, according to the Times of Israel. “We’ve had three stillbirths of women who were infected with the virus, but have not found the unborn babies infected before this case.”

READ: Studies examining pregnant women and COVID-19 risk show disturbing results

The preborn baby’s in utero death from coronavirus is the first of its kind in Israel, and is rare worldwide. However, the case points to a growing body of evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted from mother to baby prior to birth, a process called “vertical transmission.” Professor Arnon Wiznitzer, an OB-GYN at Rabin Medical Center, noted to The Jerusalem Post that cases of this are very rare and that most of the time transmission of the disease comes from contact between mother and newborn. And while other cases of stillbirth from the disease have occurred, this is the first case where the baby was also found to be infected. 

At a prenatal visit just two weeks prior to her hospital admission, both mother and baby were well, and no issues were noted, according to Ynet. After her preborn baby’s tragic death, the baby’s mother also tested positive. “I was as careful as I could be to avoid infection,” the unnamed mother lamented. “I am grateful to the medical teams who did their best and were supportive.”

The Jerusalem Post noted that the most recent wave of the pandemic is likely caused by the British B117 variant, which seems to affect younger people and pregnant women especially, and is overall more contagious. Professor Wiznitzer also expressed concern that the variant could also contribute to more vertical transmission as in this case, but as yet there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions. “We are in the process of learning the disease, so we don’t know,” he said.

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