Coronavirus: Illinois governor announces rare death of baby

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Investigation under way to determine cause of death in pandemic where children make up only small fraction of positive cases globally

Gloved hands with testing equipment in a laboratory
Illinois health authorities are carrying out an investigation into the state’s first known death of an infant from the novel coronavirus. Photograph: David Crosling/AAP

The Illinois health department has announced the first known infant death from Covid-19 in the state.

The Illinois governor, JB Pritzker, said an investigation was under way to determine the cause of death and whether the child, who was younger than one year, had other health issues.

Dr Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said: “A full investigation is under way to determine the cause of death. We must do everything we can to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. If not to protect ourselves, but to protect those around us.”

Pritzker said: “If you haven’t been paying attention, maybe this is your wake-up call.”

Among children, recorded illness caused by the coronavirus has been rare. The risk is statistically greater for older adults and people with other health problems. In most cases the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough, but also milder cases of pneumonia sometimes requiring hospitalisation.

Children have made up a small fraction of recorded coronavirus cases worldwide. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Chinese researchers reported the death of a 10-month-old with Covid-19. The infant had a bowel blockage and organ failure, and died four weeks after being hospitalised.

Separate research published in the journal Pediatrics traced 2,100 infected children in China and noted one death, a 14-year-old. The study found less than 6% of children infected had fallen seriously ill.