Researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist, have shown that infants under 90 days of age who tested positive for COVID-19 tend to be well, with little or no respiratory symptoms.
According to the study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, fever was often found to be the primary or only symptom in new born babies infected with the novel coronavirus.
"While there is limited data on infants with COVID-19 from the US, our findings suggest that these babies mostly have mild illness and may not be at higher risk of severe disease as initially reported from China," said study lead author Leena Mithal from the Northwestern University in the US.
"Most of the infants in our study had fever, which suggests that for young infants being evaluated because of fever, COVID-19 may be an important cause, particularly in a region with widespread community activity," Mithal said.
However, she added that evaluation for bacterial infection in young infants with fever remains important.
In the study, the researchers assessed 18 infants, none with a significant medical history. Of the 50 percent of these infants who were admitted to the hospital's general inpatient service, none required oxygen, respiratory support, or intensive care.
According to the study, indications for admission were mainly clinical observation, monitoring of feeding tolerance, and ruling-out bacterial infection with empiric intravenous antibiotics in infants younger than 60 days.
Of the infants admitted to the hospital, six out of nine had gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as poor feeding, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The scientists said upper respiratory tract symptoms of cough and congestion preceded onset of GI symptoms.
They said young infants also had notably high viral loads in their nasal specimens despite mild clinical illness.
"It is unclear whether young infants with fever and a positive test for SARS-CoV-2 require hospital admission," Mithal said.
"The decision to admit to the hospital is based on age, need for preemptive treatment of bacterial infection, clinical assessment, feeding tolerance, and adequacy of follow-up," she added.
Mithal believes there may be opportunities to utilise rapid SARS-CoV-2 testing to determine disposition of clinically well infants with fever.