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Prevalence of COVID-19 Low in Infants in NICU

Policies relating to isolating infants, permitting direct maternal breastfeeding rapidly evolving

premature infant

THURSDAY, Oct. 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of COVID-19 is low among infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), according to a study published online Oct. 19 in the American Journal of Perinatology.

Kaashif A. Ahmad, M.D., from the Pediatrix Medical Group of San Antonio, and colleagues surveyed NICUs regarding COVID-19 patient burden and policies relating to infant separation, feeding practices, and universal maternal screening. Survey responses represented an active patient census of 3,465; 3,486; 3,452; and 3,442 NICU patients from March 26 to April 3, April 8 to April 19, May 4 to May 22, and July 13 to Aug. 2, 2020, respectively.

The researchers found that confirmed COVID-19 was rare in NICU-admitted infants, with the prevalence increasing from 0.03 to 0.44 percent (one to 15 patients) across the four survey rounds. There was an increase in the prevalence of patients under investigation from 0.8 to 2.6 percent. Between the second and fourth surveys, hospitals isolating infants from COVID-19-positive mothers decreased from 46 to 20 percent; during the same period, centers permitting direct maternal breastfeeding increased from 17 to 47 percent. There was an increase from 52 to 69 percent in centers reporting universal severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 screening for all expectant mothers.

"For mothers under investigation or positive for COVID 19, policies had been commonly enacted to restrict maternal-infant exposures and to limit direct breastfeeding, but we found these policies to be rapidly evolving," the authors write.

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