New York – After the death of an infant who contracted herpes during a controversial circumcision practice, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office said it is investigating the case as a possible criminal matter.
Jerry Schmetterer, the spokesman for Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, told The Jewish Week Monday, “Our Crimes Against Children Bureau is looking into this situation. I would not assume what any possible charges would be.”
As the Daily News reported on Sunday, a 2-week-old infant died at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Hospital in September after contracting the herpes simplex virus Type 1 during the practice of metzitzah b’peh, otherwise known as “oral suction,” or the suctioning of blood from the circumcision wound directly by mouth.
Neither the name of the child nor that of the ritual circumciser, or mohel, who performed the ritual has been released to the public. However, “herpes infections in infants aged 60 days or younger” are on the list of communicable diseases that require reporting to the New York State Department of Health.
In response to a request by The Jewish Week for comment on this latest case, David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel, noted that in 2006, the New York State Department of Health and a “broad array” of Orthodox rabbis signed off on a Circumcision Protocol Regarding the Prevention of Neonatal Herpes Transmission.
“We have no information whether the mohel [in the new case] took the precautionary hygienic steps outlined in the DOH Protocol, whether an investigation was done to determine the cause and source of the child’s infection, or what any such investigation may have determined,” Zwiebel said. “Until we know those things, I think it is premature for us — or anyone, for that matter — to offer public comment.”