Herpes cases among babies linked to ultra-Orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual

By Katie Forster, 9 March 2017

New York health department alerts doctors to infections linked to ancient ritual in which circumcision wound is cleaned by mouth

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The majority of Jewish circumcision ceremonies do not include metzitzah b’peh Getty Images
A baby boy was rushed to hospital when he developed herpes following a controversial ancient circumcision ritual, it has been reported.
The New York health department alerted doctors to the case of a newborn who fell ill after undergoing the ultra-Orthodox Jewish practice in which the circumcision wound is cleaned by mouth.
A rash is said to have spread across the child’s genitals, buttocks, inner thighs and ankle two weeks after the procedure.
There have been six cases of herpes among children who have had the ritual known as metzitzah b’peh performed on them since February 2015, reported the New York Daily News.
The majority of Jewish circumcision ceremonies do not include metzitzah b’peh, in which the mohel, or circumciser, places their mouth directly on the wound to suck away the blood.
An estimated 3,000 babies are circumcised each year using the method in New York City, home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel.
The city’s mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters officials were in the process of identifying the mohel who had performed the procedure and expected “full cooperation from the community”.
Mr de Blasio retracted the requirement for a parental consent form for the practice two years ago in a compromise with ultra-Orthodox leaders who agreed to help identify and isolate any mohels found to be responsible for an infection.
Of the six previously undisclosed cases, two occurred last year and three in 2015.
Since 2000, there have been 24 cases of infant herpes linked to circumcision, leading to two deaths and two cases of brain damage, according to the New York Post.
Herpes, a highly contagious viral disease which can cause blisters and ulcers, is more severe in newborn babies as their immune systems are not fully developed.

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