New York Infant Contracts Herpes During Circumcision

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A newborn baby in New York contracted herpes during his circumcision, The Forward reported on Thursday. This is the third case in two years in which an infant has been infected with the disease as a result of a controversial circumcision rite.

The rite, metzitzah b’peh, involves the ritual circumciser placing his mouth directly on the child’s penis to draw blood away from the cut.

The baby was treated for a genital rash five days after he was circumcised, the Forward reported, citing a health alert issued January 28 by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

At least 11 boys contracted herpes from the practice between 2004 and 2011, according to New York City health officials. Two died from the disease and two others suffered brain damage, the officials said.

In September 2013, the city’s Board of Health voted 9-0 to require mohels to obtain signed consent forms from parents; the Haredi Orthodox Jewish community opposes the forms. Several months earlier, the city had struck an agreement with city hospitals to distribute pamphlets about the ritual’s dangers to the mothers of newborns.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said shortly after taking office on January 1 that he would leave the signed consent forms in place while looking for a more effective solution, according to the Forward. The ultra-Orthodox community had believed de Blasio would do away with the forms.

Metzitzah b’peh is not used in most Jewish circumcision ceremonies, but many in ultra-Orthodox still adhere to the rite. Many community leaders have resisted calls to use alternative approaches.

Circumcision metal tools.Credit: Ilya Melnikov

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