A new case of neonatal herpes as a result of the Jewish ritual of circumcision has been reported by the New York City Health Department.
Metzitzah b’peh is an ancient practice that calls for the mohel, person performing the circumcision, to suck the blood from the incision on the penis of the infant. This controversial procedure has continuously raised red flags throughout the medical community and has a long history of being connected to neonatal herpes.
During Mayor de Blasio’s 2013 campaign he had promised the Hasidic community to remove the requirement of written parental consent, and ever since the practice has gone on with no restrictions in New York City.
On Wednesday, February 8, Health officials sent out an alert to doctors about the most recent case of herpes and encouraged them to remain vigilant.
The Post reports, “The infant in the new case was hospitalized for 14 days and was reported to be recovering. According to the Health Department, 24 cases of herpes have been linked to circumcision since 2000. Two of the infants died and two others suffered brain damage. Last year, there were two cases. In 2015, there were three cases.
Since 2006, 22 percent of all male neonatal herpes cases were linked to ritual circumcision. Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have opposed any restrictions on the centuries-old ritual as an infringement on religious freedom. Mohels who perform the circumcisions are not even required to be tested for herpes, according to Health Department rules.”
The Bloomberg administration had attempted to restrict the practice by requiring a consent form to be signed by the infant’s parents. Then in 2015, Mayor de Blasio and the city Board of Health cut the requirement.
Hospitals, doctors and parents are given pamphlets by the Health Department, as part of a compromise, warning that following metzitzah b’peh “some babies can get herpes, which can even lead to death.”
Although, Health officials express concerns about the actual number of parents seeing the brochures.
The alert sent to doctors by the department said, “Despite these efforts, parents of case-patients infected have not reported seeing the pamphlet or poster.”
On Wednesday, de Blasio said that the city was “now in the process of identifying the mohel and we expect full cooperation from the community.”
By Rachel Shapiro