Following Circumcision Rite, Two Infants Contract Neonatal Herpes; One Tests Positive for HIV (Video)

First Posted: Apr 08, 2013 11:01 AM EDT

The New york City Department of Health said Sunday that two infant boys have contracted herpes after undergoing an orthodox circumcision ritual, and one has tested positive for HIV-1.

Fox News reports that the two boys are members of the city's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and were circumcised in the Jewish ritual known as metzitzah b'peh, in which a practitioner, or mohel, places his mouth around the baby's penis to cleanse the wound and suck the blood away.

A week following the ceremony, one of the boys developed a fever and lesion on his scrotum, according to the health department.

According to Medical Daily, since 2000, the city began requiring that parents sign consent forms acknowledging the health risks of this practice following a string of incidents that included 13 cases of herpes with two resulting in brain damage and two others in death.

None of the parents of the two boys signed these forms, said Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, according to the The Jewish Week.

Varma said it was "too early to tell" if the babies would suffer long-term health consequences from the infection. However, Neonatal herpes can cause death or serious health issues among infants.

Various medical providers have questioned the safety of the practice, stating that it this tradition is not suitable for the 21st century. However, rabbis in the community are defending the long-standing birth rite. 

After the city enacted the informed consent law last year, Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the Hasidic United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, told ABC News, "This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child."

"If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice," he added.

Want to find out more about the dangers of Neonatal Herpes? Check out this video, courtesy of YouTube.

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