Neonatal Herpes and Circumcision

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

By: Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Male circumcision is an ancient practice. It involves removing the foreskin from a human penis. While some people opt for circumcision for preventative reasons, it is usually performed on babies and children for religious or cultural motives. Circumcisions performed by medical providers have a low complication rate of 1.5% for infants and 6% for older children. About a third of men all over the world are circumcised, and there are typically no severe consequences to male circumcision. However, the New York City Health Department recently reported a new case of neonatal herpes connected to the practice.

Brit Milah

The practice of brit milah is a Jewish religious male circumcision ceremony performed by a mohel (or circumciser) on the baby’s 8th day of life. A mohel is a Jew who is specially trained to perform the ceremony. These individuals are usually doctors, rabbis, or cantors. Jewish law requires that, during the circumcision, a mohel must draw blood from the wound. Most mohels use a suction device to reduce chances of contamination, but Orthodox groups use their mouths to draw blood.


The average human mouth contains around 500 to 1,000 different types of bacteria. While this bacteria is usually a natural part the oral microbiome, the herpes virus is not. The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a type of infection that appears around the face and mouth. Many people are already infected with the virus, which results in cold sores or fever blisters around the lips and mouth. For people with healthy immune systems, herpes is no more than a passing irritation. However, those with weak immune systems could develop cognitive deficits like bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. Infants still have a nascent immune system, so if they are infected with herpes, the virus could affect their internal organs and nervous system.

Be Aware

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention gave a warning in 2012 about the health hazards of the Orthodox practice after 11 cases of neonatal HSV and 2 deaths. Another study done in Israel in 2013 found that HSV transmission was caused by ritual circumcision in 31.8% of cases. However, cases of neonatal herpes are still appearing in 2017. If you want to circumcise your child according to religious customs, have the mohel tested for HIV or use a more sanitary method of collecting the baby’s blood.

If your child has been infected with HSV, contact one of our experienced New York personal injury attorneys. We have been serving the people of New York for more than 30 years. Trust us to handle your medical malpractice case. Call us at (212) 684-1880 or fill out our online form for a free evaluation.

Related Posts