New York City health officials on Tuesday proposed requiring parents to sign a consent waiver before participating in a specific infant male circumcision ritual tied to a number of herpes infections. The proposal, presented to a Board of Health meeting, follows reports that some babies acquired herpes simplex virus infections after ultra-Orthodox Jewish ritual circumcisions that included “metzitzah b’peh,” a procedure in which the adult circumciser uses his mouth to suck blood away from the circumcision wound.
Last week, CDC published a report based on city data from 2000-11 that found 11 New York newborns had contracted herpes following such ritual circumcisions. Ten of the babies were hospitalized; two had brain damage; and two died.
While most Jewish circumcisions do not include metzitzah b’peh, it is common among the more than 250,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city. The study estimates that about 3,600 newborn boys in New York each year have ritual circumcisions that include metzitzah b’peh.
The city health department last week strongly warned against direct oro-genital suction during ritual circumcisions. It also said a number of hospitals have agreed to distribute pamphlets to parents considering at-home circumcisions, notifying them of the risks.
Under the new proposal presented by Dr. Jay K. Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control for the department, ritual circumcisers would distribute consent forms for parents to sign indicating they are aware of the infection risks. Several families, including two whose babies were infected, have told officials they were not aware that the ritual would include the practice, Varma said.
Regulating the practice could drive it underground, making it more risky, worries Avi Shafran, a spokesperson for Agdath Israel, an umbrella group for ultra-Orthodox organizations. The health department is requesting feedback on the proposal until a public hearing on July 23, after which a vote may be taken in September.
[PNU editor’s note: The study, “Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Following Jewish Ritual Circumcisions that Included Direct Orogenital Suction - New York City, 2000-2011,” was published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2012;61(22):405-409).]
Date of Publication
Local and Community News
Disclaimer: NPIN provides this information as a public service only. The views and information provided about the materials, funding opportunities, and organizations do not necessarily state or reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, or NPIN.