Circumcision Ritual, Baby’s Herpes Linked: Ancient Jewish Ritual Angers Public In NYC

In the Big Apple, another controversial circumcision allegedly led to a baby contracting the herpes virus. According to the New York Daily News, a haredi mohel (Jewish ritual circumciser) performed the centuries-old ritual on a baby and transmitted the potentially deadly disease to the infant boy. Authorities believe the metzizah b’peh practice of circumcising a baby marks the fourth time in 2014 that a child contracted herpes simplex virus Type 1 (or HSV-1).

The aging practice essentially involves the removal of a newborn baby’s foreskin. After the circumcision, a mohel or rabbi uses his mouth to suck away the blood from the child’s bleeding penis.

Doctors warn of the dangers involved in potentially transmitting pathogens from mouth-to-genitalia, especially when bodily fluids — in this case, saliva and blood — are exchanged. Reportedly, the baby in question contracted neonatal herpes. Once the virus enters the host body, the person has it for a lifetime. While it can lay dormant, it never leaves the person’s body. Studies point out that the virus increases a person’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease or mental dysfunction later in life.

Health officials say 17 babies have contracted herpes and died after circumcisions since 2000. Each time, the metzizah b’peh ritual (or MBP) was involved.

In July, the Inquisitr reported on the deaths of two infant boys, who apparently died after contracting herpes. NYC officials contend that the ancient practice of Jewish circumcisions caused the boys’ deaths.

In Western culture, the act of removing the foreskin of a newborn child is the subject of heated and ongoing debate. Doctors are split over the medical necessity and some MD’s believe the surgery amounts to unneeded costs and subsidies. Moreover, some experts believe surgery for circumcisions may cause more harm than good.

It’s important to note that this form of circumcision is not embraced by all members of the Jewish community. In fact, many who identify with the faith are firmly against the ages-old practice. Reports suggest that the metzizah b’peh, which is believed to have been performed on the baby in this case who contracted herpes, was performed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish elder.

In this latest case of herpes contracted by a baby during the circumcision ritual, the parent brought the child to a doctor for fussy and colicky behavior. During the appointment, the doctor discovered lesions on the baby’s penis that were consistent with the deadly neonatal strain.

Accordingly, he was rushed to the hospital and treated aggressively. Doctors used the timeline from the time the boy was circumcised to the moment he came down with symptoms. All altogether, it took about 12 days to make a diagnosis.

Many have spoken out against the practice, but some suggest it is difficult to enforce because officials have to walk a thin line on matters involving religion. During his campaign for mayor, de Blasio spoke out against circumcising babies, and he promised to make changes in the city’s policy on circumcision if he was elected. However, critics point out that he has not taken up the issue so far.

“I would start over. Change the policy to find a way to protect all the children but also respect religious tradition in an appropriate manner and come Day 1 to City Hall with a new policy that’s fair.”

Various amounts of evidence claim to make connections with circumcision based on the ancient practice and babies diagnosed with herpes. However, elders claim there has been no conclusive evidence to support the attacks on the religious custom. Ironically, as the Jerusalem Post pointed out, the manner of circumcision with baby boys is not a mandatory Jewish rite based on biblical doctrine.

Share your take on this latest development. With the association between metzizah b’peh ritual circumcision and babies contracting herpes, should city officials outlaw the specific practice? Going one step further, do you believe all types of circumcision should be banned?

[Image via: European Jewish Congress]