The city was notified of the infection in April but hushed it up until after it, at the urging of Mayor Bill de Blasio and health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, voted to end its weak informed consent requirement for MBP and move to an even less restrictive protocol based almost entirely on voluntary cooperation from haredim – cooperation that does not appear to be forthcoming.
NYC Hid Haredi Baby’s Herpes Infection From Public During The Run-up To The Repeal Of The Informed Consent For Metzitzah B’Peh
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
In April, another haredi baby was infected with the Herpes Simplex 1 virus (HSV-1) through the dangerous primarily-haredi circumcision practice known as metzitzah b’peh (MBP), but the city failed to release that information to media or acknowledge the infection, the Forward reported.
The city was notified of the infection in April but hushed it up until after it, at the urging of Mayor Bill de Blasio and health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, voted to end its weak informed consent requirement for MBP and move to an even less restrictive protocol based almost entirely on voluntary cooperation from haredim – cooperation that does not appear to be forthcoming. The city also stopped sending out health notices to doctors and hospitals when new cases of MBP-transmitted herpes occur. Releasing information about the April case at the same September 9 meeting where the informed consent requirement was overturned meant the media and the public could not use the new case to lobby against the change.
The April case was mentioned by health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett at a September 9 meeting of the health board. The New York Times reported on September 10 that the case was reported to health officials in April, and that the mohel had not been identified. At that same meeting, Bassett admitted the parents of the child in the April MBP herpes case refused to identify the mohel who circumcised their child.
Yerachmiel Simins, an attorney who represents haredi leaders in their negotiations with the city over MBP, told the Forward the reason that the parents failed to comply with health officials is that haredim still do not trust the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“There’s a difference in New York City between dealing with the mayor’s office and the department of health,” Simins said. He also noted that that haredi leaders have still not reached an agreement with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene over the new herpes protocol and the voluntary DNA testing that is supposed to be a part of it. Simins insisted the city has over a period of year “steadfastly and consistently” refused to use DNA testing, testing he says haredim want. (Haredim may want DNA testing because DNA tests of the HSV-1 virus are notoriously difficult and have have a high level of false negatives – which would favor infected haredi mohels.)
When asked by the Forward, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene did not respond to Simins’s allegations.
The Forward asked the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene several times in August and in September before that meeting in which Basset revealed the April herpes case whether there had been any MBP neonatal herpes cases in this calendar year. The city failed to respond to those questions, as well.
When asked by the Forward to explain why the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene did not confirm the April case to the Forward when asked, the department’s press secretary, Christopher Miller, reportedly offered no explanation.
Miller later told the Forward that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene did not issue a health alert for the April MBP herpes case because “we believed that awareness at the provider level was sufficiently high given all the press in recent months.”
Dr. Jonathan Zenilman, who heads the infectious diseases division at Johns Hopkins University, said the city was acting in a cowardly and “pusillanimous” fashion.
“They [city health officials and the mayor] are accepting a situation where every major expert in the country has said this [MBP] is a bad idea,” Zenilman said.
MBP-transmitted HSV-1 infections have killed and maimed babies, leaving some with serious brain damage and leaving all infected babies with a doubled risk of eventually being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
In MBP, a mohel uses his mouth to suck blood from the baby's bleeding penis seconds after cutting off the baby's foreskin.