Another Baby Gets Herpes From Controversial Circumcision Ritual

Another baby has contracted herpes from a controversial circumcision ritual, according to a health alert the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sent out on Jan. 28.

The ritual – called metzitzah b'peh – is common among some Orthodox Jewish communities including the city's hasidic enclaves. In the practice, the mohel – the man who performs the circumcision – sucks the blood from the wound.

Health officials say such oral contact can lead to the transmission of herpes. Since 2000, 14 confirmed cases "attributable to direct orogenital suction" have been reported to the department. Two of the babies died and at least two suffered brain damage, according to the alert.

Some Orthodox Jewish Groups, including Agudath Israel of America, have defended the ritual. Agudath Israel and others are currently suing the city to block a requirement that mohels disclose certain risks to parents.

David Zwiebel, Agudath Israel's Executive Vice President, said the city hasn't done enough to rule out other possible sources of the herpes.

"One of the things that we hope will change in the new administration at City Hall is that there will be a willingness, a readiness, to conduct a more complete and thorough investigation," Zwiebel said.

He added that it is an ancient practice and that 14 cases represent only a small percentage of the nearly 4,000 metzitzah b'peh rituals performed a year.

Some in the Orthodox community had hoped Mayor Bill De Blasio would roll back regulations of the ritual. Earlier this month, De Blasio said he'd keep disclosure forms in place for now.