In light of the shocking report linking newborn babies with herpes infections in the weeks after undergoing Metzitzah B'peh circumcisions, the city's health department is proposing Orthodox Jewish parents to sign a consent waiver acknowledging the risk of infection before taking part in the religious ritual.
The proposal follows last week's report produced by the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealing 11 newborn males in New York were infected with herpes between November 2000 and December 2011 after mohels placed their mouths directly upon the baby's newly circumcised penis in order to suck blood from the wound.
Rabbinical authorities in some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities maintain that direct orogenital suction is an integral part of ritual circumcision; other ultra-Orthodox authorities permit removal of blood by other means (e.g., a glass tube). Oral suction of an open wound poses an inherent risk for transmission of HSV-1 and other pathogens to a newborn infant and is not safe.
The practice, known as metzitzah b’peh, is no longer prevalent in most Jewish circumcisions, but is still performed in ultra-Orthodox communities.
In September, a baby died after contracting herpes from controversial ritual, the second in the New York area to die in recent years due to metzitzah b’peh complications.