The controversial practice of a Jewish circumcision ritual has led another newborn baby to contract neonatal herpes in New York City - the fourth case this year and the 17th since 2000, city health officials said Wednesday.
Twelve days after undergoing the ancient ritual, known as metzitzah b'peh, which involves cleaning the circumcision wound by oral suction, the newborn baby was rushed to the hospital in November, the Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday.
Although the unidentified boy has recovered in the latest case, two of the other infected infants since 2000 have died, and at least two have suffered brain damage.
Unlike the circumcisions performed in the hospital where a sterile suction tube is used to clean away the blood from around the incision, the mohel, the person performing the procedure, uses his mouth to suck away the blood from the wound. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a small number of ultra-Orthodox Jews perform the ritual 3,600 times a year in New York City.
Although some Orthodox rabbis contend there's no medical proof that babies can became sick due to the circumcisions, the latest case cited the oral suction procedure responsible for transmitting the herpes simplex type 1 virus into the newborn baby, Capital New York reported.
In addition, the newborn's symptoms, the timing of the herpes outbreak and laboratory confirmation of the herpes virus "are consistent," the Health Department said.
In 2012, the city had enacted a regulation under Mayor Michael Bloomberg requiring that anyone who performs the ritual obtain a signed consent form from parents acknowledging the potential health risks.
The New York City Health Department regulation, however, is extremely difficult to enforce and is often ignored, The Jewish Daily Forward.
During his candidacy, Bill de Blasio voiced dissatisfaction with the 2012 regulation and vowed to "change the policy and find a way to protect all the children but also respect religious tradition ... and come in Day 1 to City Hall with a new policy that is fair."
Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether the person who conducted the circumcision in the latest case had obtained written prior authorization from the parents of the child, according to New York Daily News.