11 N.Y. babies got herpes via circumcision

June 7, 2012 at 10:48 PM
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NEW YORK, June 7 (UPI) -- Eleven newborn males in New York City had confirmed herpes simplex virus after a rare circumcision ritual from November 2000 to December 2011, officials said.

Officials at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and a report published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, said 10 of the 11 newborns were hospitalized and two died.

"In six of the 11 cases, healthcare providers confirmed parental reports that the ritual circumcision included an ultra-Orthodox Jewish practice known as metzitzah b'peh, in which the circumciser, or mohel, places his mouth directly on the newly circumcised penis and sucks blood away from the circumcision wound -- direct orogenital suction," the report said.

"In the remaining cases, other evidence suggested that genital infection was introduced by direct orogenital suction."

Rabbinical authorities in some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities maintain that direct orogenital suction is an integral part of ritual circumcision, while other ultra-Orthodox authorities permit removal of blood by other means such a glass tube, the report said.

"Oral suction of an open wound poses an inherent risk for transmission of herpes simplex virus type 1 and other pathogens to a newborn infant and is not safe," health officials said. "Circumcision is a surgical procedure that involves cutting intact skin and sterile technique should be used to minimize infection risk."

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