(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Schneider Children’s Medical Center for Israel in Petah Tikva has reported two recent cases in which baby boys have been infected with the herpes virus following their brit mila.
The infections are believed to be the result of ritual circumcisions in which the metzitza ba’peh procedure was used, whereby the mohel, or person performing the circumcision, uses his mouth to suction blood off the penis after the foreskin has been cut off.
This practice is mentioned in the Talmud and codifications of Jewish law, but is now uncommon outside of the haredi community because of the risk of infection, and suction is achieved instead by means of a sterile plastic tube.
According to Schneider, one baby was released last week after having been infected with herpes, while another baby was admitted to the hospital two months ago with the same disease.
“Both children were quickly examined, treated appropriately and released in excellent condition. Both of them will continue to receive oral treatment until the age of six months,” Schneider said.
The hospital reiterated its backing of suction via a tube instead of by mouth “to avoid this difficult infection.”
According to Rabbi Moshe Marciano, director of the circumcision division of the Chief Rabbinate, the infected babies did not have the same mohel.
In one case, the mohel was the father of the infected baby, and is not an authorized mohel, while the second family refused to give the details of the mohel who performed the circumcision.
The Health Ministry confirmed that only one mohel had been identified, but did not indicate that is was the father of the baby.
Marciano said metzitza ba’peh is an approved practice for mohels authorized by the Chief Rabbinate, but added that parents can request that it not be used and the mohel is obliged to conform.
He also said that rabbinate guidelines state if the mohel has any wound or infection in his mouth he must not do metzitza ba’peh.
Metziza ba’peh has caused controversy in recent years, most notably in New York where at least 17 cases of herpes have been reported since 2000, resulting in two deaths.