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AIDS Now Most Common Infection In Newborns In Parts Of New York

January 26, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ AIDS has become the most common infectious disease in newborn infants in some parts of New York City as it spreads increasingly rapidly among children even as the adult AIDS epidemic slows, researchers said Sunday.

Fighting the spread of children’s AIDS may be especially difficult because most infants with AIDS are born to mothers with no outward signs of disease, said Dr. Howard Minkoff, director of obstetrics at the State University of New York-Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

Of 34 mothers who gave birth to children with AIDS at Minkoff’s hospital, only four had any symptoms of acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS- related complex, known as ARC, a milder form of the disease. The mothers were the source of the AIDS infections in their children, however, and some of them later developed the disease, he said.

Minkoff spoke at a symposium sponsored by the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation on AIDS in newborns.

As of Jan. 13, 231 cases of AIDS in infants had been reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. About 40 percent of them, or 103 cases, occurred in New York City, said Rita O’Donnell, a public health adviser in the city’s Health Department.

She estimates that for every child who has AIDS in New York there are three to five children who have AIDS-related complex, which may or may not progress to become AIDS.

Ms. O’Donnell said she expects the number of children’s AIDS cases in New York to double by the end of the year, while the number of cases in adults will not double for two years.

AIDS has struck 16,227 adults nationwide. About one-third of those cases occurred in New York City, according to the CDC. The disease weakens the immune systems of its victims, leaving them prey to unusual infections and forms of cancer.

The disease is more likely to be fatal in children than in adults, Ms. O’Donnell said. Sixty-nine percent of the New York children with AIDS have died, but only 52 percent of the city’s adults with AIDS have died since record-keeping began in 1981, she said.

Most of the children are born to mothers who are intravenous drug abusers and thus are at high risk of contracting AIDS from the sharing of needles. Doctors at Sunday’s symposium were advised to test for AIDS in all mothers and prospective mothers who are drug abusers or are the sexual partners of drug abusers or of others at risk for AIDS, including homosexuals and bisexuals.

Women found to have been exposed to the AIDS virus should be told there is a substantial risk they will give birth to children with the disease, Minkoff said.

He said the disease has become almost twice as common as herpes infections in newborns in parts of New York where AIDS is common. The dangers of newborn herpes infection, which include brain damage and death, have encouraged hospitals to spend millions of dollars screening mothers and doing Caesarean sections to prevent transmission of the disease from mother to child, he said.

While Caesarean sections generally do prevent herpes infections, they apparently do not prevent AIDS transmission from mother to child, Minkoff said.

Ten of the 34 infants he has seen with AIDS were delivered by Caesarean section, he said.

Minkoff has also followed the families of children with AIDS and found that one in three of the children later born to the infected mothers will also have AIDS or ARC.

The birth of a child with AIDS, he said, could be the first signal that an entire family will develop the disease.

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