Health Department investigations of newborns with herpes virus between 2000 –2011 have shown that 11 infants contracted the herpes virus when mohelim, or ritual circumcisers, placed their mouths directly on the child’s circumcision wound to draw blood away from the circumcision cut. Ten of these infants were hospitalized, at least two developed brain damage, and two babies died.
“There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn,” Commissioner Farley said. “Parents considering ritual Jewish circumcision need to know that circumcision should only be performed under sterile conditions, like any other procedures that create open cuts, whether by mohelim or medical professionals.”
The medical risk for metzitzah b’peh is herpes simplex virus type 1. Many adults are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1, which is usually transmitted orally through common activities. It is different than herpes simplex virus type 2, which is usually transmitted sexually. A married couple who have only had sex with each other could still contract herpes simplex virus type 1 without sexual contact with anyone else. The common cold sore on the mouth is how Herpes simplex virus type 1 often presents, but most persons with infection do not know they are infected, because they have no history of symptoms.
• Lenox Hill
• New York Presbyterian
• Forest Hills