West Nile In Breast Milk?

West Nile Virus graphic with caudecus and mosquito AP / CBS

It's another West Nile Virus first: traces of the mosquito borne disease have shown up in breast milk.

CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports on a new milestone in research on the West Nile virus. A new mother in southeastern Michigan received blood transfusions after giving birth on September 2 and started feeling sick shortly afterwards.

Lyle Petersen of the Centers for Disease Control says, "After we discovered she had West Nile virus infection we looked at her breast milk and found evidence of the West Nile virus genetic material in that breast milk."

Health officials, however, are quick to caution the presence of virus in breast milk is not proof it can be transmitted to the infant, and no cases of transmission by breast milk have been reported.

The baby in Michigan is being tested.

The Centers for Disease Control is suggesting that nursing mothers in heavily mosquito-infested areas contact their doctors if they develop a fever. But pediatric infectious disease specialists like Dr. Robert Baum, of the University of Chicago Children's Hospital, says this chapter in the West Nile mystery is not cause for alarm.

According to Baum, "Young breast feeding mothers have not been a major component of the disease burden to date."

Still, this latest development is another reminder that West Nile Virus is a new phenomenon and health officials are on a steep learning curve.

As presence of the virus continues to be found in donated blood and organs, the FDA told a Senate subcommittee earlier this week that plans to start testing blood for the virus are the highest priority.

Dr. Jesse Goodman of the FDA says, "An optimistic version would be to have this available for next summer for the next major mosquito season."

In the meantime, health officials stress that the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh any risks of giving a baby West Nile. Both the mother and baby in the Michigan case are fine.
  • Sue Chan

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter