Two New York City infants were diagnosed with herpes after undergoing a traditional Orthodox Jewish circumcision, NBC4 reports.
According to the Health Department, both babies developed lesions on their genitals shortly after having the metzitzah b'peh, a practice in which the mohel -- a person trained to perform the "covenant of circumcision" -- uses a direct oral suction technique to swab blood from the infant's penis, was performed on them.
More than half of all adults carry the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) , according to Brian F. Leas, a research analyst in the Center for Evidence-based Practice at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. But the symptoms that present in those adults are oral lesions, or cold sores, and not life-threatening. In infants, however, HSV-1 can cause high fever and seizures -- and in two cases since 1998, even death.
After a 2012 HSV-1 outbreak, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene attempted to regulate the practice, requiring mohels to obtain written parental consent before using the metzitzah b'peh technique during the circumcision.
Leas and his fellow researchers were unable to identify how many times the metzitzah b'peh was used in circumcisions, but noted that "there is sufficient clinical evidence to suggest the practice is a source of infection and therefore a risk exists—though the extent or magnitude of that risk is not well defined and warrants further investigation."
["Closeup of newborn baby crying" on Shutterstock]