Two infants in New York were diagnosed with herpes in July after they underwent ritualistic Jewish circumcisions. Both children were born to mothers who experienced full-term pregnancies and normal deliveries after which they were circumcised by the ancient technique of direct oral suction, a practice common among Orthodox Jews. According to the health department, the procedure took place eight days after the infants were born and they developed lesions on their genitals, which were diagnosed as symptoms of herpes soon after.
Sixteen such cases of boy children contracting herpes have been confirmed in New York City since 2010 and each of them underwent circumcisions that likely involved direct oral suction. While two of those children have lost their lives, another two suffered brain damage.
The ancient ritual of direct oral suction, also known as metzitzah b’peh or MBP, requires the person performing the procedure to cleanse the fresh wound by sucking out blood from the cut and spitting it aside. Medical professionals believe the transfer of saliva during this procedure could give babies herpes, a condition that is mostly harmless and treatable in adults but often proves to be fatal for newborns, whose immune systems are not completely developed.
Reportedly, when children within the Orthodox Jewish community have been diagnosed with herpes, their parents have tried to shield the perpetrator by refusing to reveal his identity. But now, New York City has banned two such holy men from performing the ritual. However, their names have not been revealed by the Health Department.
In 2012, the Board of Health ruled, anyone that performs circumcisions by direct oral suction would have to acquire a written consent from the guardian or parent of the concerned child. The consent form provided by the Health Department outlines the potential risks of direct oral suction. While a group of Orthodox rabbis attempted to block the regulation by filing a lawsuit against New York City, the presiding judge eventually sided with the city.
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