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Fetus infected with COVID-19 dies in womb, in 2nd such case in Israel

36-week-pregnant woman infected with coronavirus arrived at hospital after feeling ill; Meir Medical Center says it can’t link death to virus yet

Medical staff work at the COVID-19 isolation ward of Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba on September 9, 2020. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)
Medical staff work at the COVID-19 isolation ward of Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba on September 9, 2020. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

An Israeli hospital said on Saturday that a fetus stillborn from a woman infected with the coronavirus was also found to be carrying the virus. It was the second such reported instance in Israel.

The hospital said it could not currently link the virus to the death itself.

The woman, infected with COVID-19, was in the 36th week of her pregnancy when she arrived at the hospital over the weekend after feeling ill, Hebrew media reports said.

Meir Medical Center doctors found the unborn child had died in the womb, and a subsequent lab test revealed that the fetus was also infected with the virus.

Illustrative: A doctor at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba preparing to enter a COVID-19 ward. (courtesy of Meir Medical Center)

Last week a similar case was reported when the fetus of a 29-year-old woman, in her 25th week of pregnancy was found to be carrying the virus in tests after a stillbirth.

In the case last week, the hospital said there was a high probability that the fetus had died from COVID-19 complications.

“The fetus was infected through the placenta and with a very high degree of certainty, [we can say] died due to coronavirus,” Dr. Tal Brosh, head of the Infectious Disease Department at the Assuta Hospital in Ashdod, told the Ynet news site.

Dr. Yossi Tobin, the director of the maternity ward at the hospital, agreed that because the fetus was infected in utero, it was probable that the death was caused by the coronavirus.

“It was an intrauterine infection of the fetus, which can cause placental infection and death,” Tobin said. “This is a rare occurrence because a baby is usually infected with coronavirus after birth, as a result of contact with the mother. The fact that we were able to find out that they were already positive in the womb indicates a high probability that [the fetus] died as a result of coronavirus.”

A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Maccabi Healthcare Services vaccination center in Modiin on December 24, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry has advised pregnant women to get the coronavirus vaccine after a number of women expecting fell seriously ill, with several babies delivered prematurely via Caesarean section due to life-threatening risks to the mothers and the children.

Some of the women are suspected of having been infected with the so-called British strain of the coronavirus, a mutated strain that is believed to be more infectious and more deadly.

The United States Centers for Disease Control also said that pregnant women should be permitted to receive the vaccine, noting that they are at increased risk of severe disease or death from COVID-19.

“People who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated,” the agency said in a statement.

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