2 Babies Get Herpes After Jewish Circumcision Ritual

Ancient ritual involves sucking blood from wound, spitting it aside

By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 29, 2014 8:49 AM CDT

(Newser) – An ancient and now rare type of circumcision called metzitzah b'peh, which is sometimes performed by Orthodox Jews on newborn boys, appears to be behind the spread of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) to two newborns in New York this month. Both boys were born to mothers who carried full-term and had normal deliveries, reports WNBC-TV. During the ritual, however, the person doing the circumcision uses direct oral suction in an attempt to cleanse the wound, sucking and spitting aside the blood, and the saliva contact can transmit the infection.

More than half of American adults have HSV-1, according to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the most common symptom being oral lesions. Newborns, however, can run high fevers, have seizures, and even die if infected. Since 2000, 16 cases of herpes likely following this type of circumcision have been reported, three in 2014 alone, and there have been two deaths and two instances of brain damage. In a 2012 report, the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that circumcision is safe and provides health benefits, but that direct oral suction should be avoided due to risk of infection. (Check out what recently happened to one man going in for what he thought was a routine circumcision.)

In this Sunday, May 15, 2011 photo, Benjamin Abecassis rests on a pillow sounded by family members, immediately following his Bris, a Jewish circumcision ceremony in San Francisco.
In this Sunday, May 15, 2011 photo, Benjamin Abecassis rests on a pillow sounded by family members, immediately following his Bris, a Jewish circumcision ceremony in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
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