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Jewish Infant Gets Herpes From Controversial Orthodox Circumcision Rite

A New York City infant was recently infected with herpes after undergoing a controversial circumcision rite, but survived, health officials said.

The baby contracted herpes simplex virus type 1 after undergoing the rite known as metzitzah b’peh. This is the second confirmed case this year by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The infant survived after developing a fever and vesicular lesions on its scrotum in the weeks after circumcision. HSV-1 was isolated from the lesions. Metzitzah b’peh is still practiced by some ultra-Orthodox mohels where the blood is orally sucked away after the cutting of the foreskin. Though not serious for adults, it can be fatal for infants, causing permanent cognitive and physical damage or even death.

In January, the DOHMH began requiring that parents sign an informed consent waiver to allow metzitzah b’peh to be performed.

The DOHMH said no form was submitted for the procedure. Despite the apparent violation, the agency said it has no plans to pursue a legal case against the parents.

There have been 13 confirmed cases by the DOHMH since 2000. Last month, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, prone to making controversial statements, said that local hospitals underreport the number of neonatal herpes infections from metzitzah b’peh.

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