Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Another newborn in New York City has contracted herpes after undergoing a controversial Jewish circumcision ritual, health officials said.
The baby was hospitalized after being diagnosed with neonatal herpes in November, 12 days after undergoing a ritual involving oral suction of the open wound after circumcision.
His parents took him to a doctor after reporting that he was showing "fussiness after feeding," according to the New York City Department of Health.
The doctor noted a "cluster of papules" on the child's penis and referred him to a dermatologist, who confirmed the diagnosis. The baby was hospitalized for treatment.
He is the 17th newborn in New York City to contract herpes since 2000 after the procedure, called "metzitzah b'peh" in Hebrew. Two babies have died and two suffered brain damage.
The question of "metzitzah b'peh" is an important and emotional one for religious Jews. Some maintain that oral suction is not necessary, while others say it is crucial to the ritual.
During the ritual, the person performing the circumcision cleans the wound by sucking blood from the cut. The practice is believed to be widespread in large Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities, including those in Rockland.
A Monsey rabbi, Yitzchok Fischer, was the subject of a state order prohibiting him from performing oral suction. Other Rockland rabbis have taken a strong stand against the practice.
Doctors say the procedure puts the child at risk for herpes simplex type 1, which is usually harmless to adults but can be deadly to newborns.
The Bloomberg administration instituted a 2013 rule that required parents to give written consent before allowing a child to undergo metzitzah b'peh.
Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized the requirement, which has been largely ignored. He said he would create a new policy, but hasn't yet.
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