Q: Two unrelated cases of the coronavirus have emerged here involving a baby under a year old and a pregnant woman. How worried should pregnant women be?
A: Information is evolving all the time but pregnancy itself does not appear to increase the risk of contracting the virus or worsening the course of the illness, according to Prof Shane Higgins, master of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street. Women who have existing medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or are taking medication affecting the immune system may be at higher risk.
Q: Can a pregnant woman pass it on to her baby?
A: There is no evidence the virus can pass to the developing baby in the womb. A report from China of four women with coronavirus infection when they gave birth found no evidence of the infection in their newborn babies.
Q: Where did the pregnant woman who tested positive here give birth and is she well?
A: Prof Higgins said the woman gave birth in Holles Street and precautions were taken as she was placed in isolation. She had a relatively mild illness and suffered a temperature. But thankfully all went well and she is now home with her newborn.
Q: Is there a greater chance of miscarriage?
A: According to guidance from the National Maternity Hospital, if a woman contracts the infection in early pregnancy, there is no evidence of increased risk of miscarriage. Cases in China from some pregnant women with the virus indicate they are more likely to deliver before term. However, the woman who was treated in Holles Street delivered at full term.
Q: What symptoms should pregnant women be alert to?
A: High temperature, cough, fatigue, aches and pains. The advice is to ring your GP and be assessed for a test. You need to self-isolate and avoid other people. If you have pregnancy-related problems you may need to go to hospital but ring in advance.
Q: How prepared are hospitals to deal with a woman with the virus?
A: They have set up isolation rooms and there are very strict visiting restrictions. Women need to follow advice when visiting for ante-natal appointments. Maternity hospitals are caring for some of the most frail of patients - premature infants whose immune systems and lungs are undeveloped, affecting their ability to fight the virus.
Q: Can a new mother with the virus breastfeed?
A: Experts say there is no evidence the virus can be carried in breast milk. The main risk is the close contact between mother and baby. The risk is the possibility that a mother can cough and sneeze, spreading droplets. Guidance includes washing your hands and wearing a face mask.
Q: What is the risk of infants getting the virus?
A: It is possible for anyone of any age to be infected with the virus. One case has been recorded here but the risk is low. Children generally are believed to catch it but may have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. They may have a slight fever, some aches and pains and a cough. Children can pass it on to other vulnerable adults and act as carriers. GPs have reported they are receiving a large number of calls from worried parents about the coronavirus and they are best placed to make a judgment. Parents whose child has an existing health condition are asked to be vigilant.
Q: Should children have playdates?
A: The advice from the Department of Health is to avoid them or else confine them to a very small number. The children can pick up the virus from each other and they can bring it home and infect a vulnerable adult.