Newborn dies after reportedly contracting herpes from controversial circumcision ritual

Published March 05, 2012

A two-week-old infant died at a Brooklyn hospital in September after contracting herpes through a controversial religious circumcision ritual, the New York Daily News reported.

A spokeswoman for the city Medical Examiner told the newspaper that the unidentified baby boy died September 28, 2011, at Maimonides Hospital. The official cause of death was listed as “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction.”

As part of the ultra-orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual—known as metzitzah b’peh—the rabbi or mohel removes blood from the wound with his mouth.

The brit milah (pronounced bris), otherwise known as circumcision, is a rite of passage in the Jewish faith, though different groups follow different sets of procedures. The Rabbinical Council of America endorses the practice of using a sterile glass tube between the mohel’s mouth and the baby’s wound for the more orthodox metzitzah b’peh procedure. For less conservative Jews, the baby’s skin only comes into contact with surgical tools.

It is unclear who performed the circumcision, according to the Daily News.

In 2004, another baby died after contracting herpes from a rabbi in Rockland County, N.Y.  City health officials have denounced the ritual, saying it carries “inherent risks” for babies.

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