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Infants in New York have contracted herpes during Jewish circumcision ritual, health department says

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Posted at 11:30 AM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 11:30:20-05

NEW YORK — Several infants have contracted herpes in New York in recent months after undergoing a circumcision ritual, the Health Department confirmed.

There have been three cases reported since December and four since September 2019, officials said. Prior to September, the most recent cases of DOS-related neonatal herpes were in 2017.

"Protecting the health and wellbeing of infants is always the city's first priority," a Health Department spokesman said. "The spread of neonatal herpes through ritual circumcision is a public health risk. To address this risk, we will continue to work with providers and families across our city to keep our youngest New Yorkers safe."

Herpes can be fatal in infants.

The Health Department has conducted outreach in Jewish communities about the risks around ritual circumcisions and around metzitzah b'peh, which is not done during the majority of circumcisions. During metzitzah b'peh, the person performing the circumcision places his mouth on the circumcision wound to suck blood away from the cut. Saliva from adults can carry a type of herpes that causes minor symptoms in adults, but potentially serious symptoms in newborns.

A baby infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 could have brain damage or develop a lifelong disability, health officials said.

In 2013, a baby developed a fever seven days after circumcision and vesicular lesions the following day.

This story was originally published by Aliza Chasan on WPIX in New York.